Earthquake wreaks havoc in Haiti
Canwest News Service: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 7:16 PM
This image obtained courtesy of the US Geological Survey (USGS) illustrates the intensity of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti on January 12, 2010 causing panic as it struck, officials and AFP witnesses said.
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
PORT-AU-PRINCE " Several buildings have collapsed, radio stations are down and telephone lines are dead in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince after a massive earthquake hit the Caribbean country on Tuesday.
The buildings include a hospital, a United Nations edifice and homes.
Preliminary details were still sketchy, but the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed a powerful quake struck, initially measured at 7.3 on the Richter scale, 16 kilometres from Port-au-Prince.
That was followed within minutes by two strong aftershocks measured at 5.9 and 5.5 on the scale, U.S. officials said.
A tsunami warning was in place for Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, with the first waves predicted to hit Haiti shortly.
"Everything started shaking, people were screaming, houses started collapsing . . . it's total chaos," Reuters reporter said Joseph Guyler Delva said. He said he had seen dozens of people apparently dead or injured lying under rubble, which blocked roads. Panic-stricken residents were desperately trying to dig people out from under rubble or searching for missing relatives.
The UN building was damaged in the downtown area, said Elodie Cajuste, executive director of the Haitian Canadian Chamber of Commerce, who was speaking on her cellphone.
"People are still in shock," Cajuste said, as she drove to check on her mother. "Communications are not easy."
Many people were in the streets and walls have collapsed everywhere, she said.
The initial shaking lasted for three to four minutes, Cajuste said.
Already the poorest nation in the Americas, Haiti has been hit by a series of disasters recently and was battered by hurricanes in 2008.
The country was also gripped by a tense political standoff in April 2008 amid riots over skyrocketing food prices.
Seventy per cent of Haiti's population lives on less than two dollars per day and half of its 8.5 million people are unemployed.