Strong Quake, Aftershocks Strike Haiti

BY Hari Sreenivasan  January 12, 2010 at 6:04 PM EDT

A major earthquake struck the country of Haiti on Tuesday, registering a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and reportedly centered 14 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Initial reports indicate a hospital collapsed and other buildings have suffered damage. Dale Grant, a Colorado-based seismologist with the USGS, told The Rundown this afternoon there have been at least two 5.9 magnitude aftershocks. Grant said the earthquake was shallow and we can expect a lot of damage:

“Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken,” Henry Bahn, a visiting official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture told the Associated Press. “The sky is just gray with dust.”

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for parts of the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Bahamas.

On last night’s NewsHour, Kira Kay reported on how Haiti is trying to overcome years of political turmoil and severe poverty.

Update 6:36 p.m. | The White House issued a statement from President Obama on the earthquake.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake. We are closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti,” Mr. Obama said.

Update 7:26 p.m. | Former President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, issued a statement as well:

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti. My U.N. office and the rest of the U.N. system are monitoring the situation, and we are committed to do whatever we can to assist the people of Haiti in their relief, rebuilding and recovery efforts.”

Update 7:56 p.m. | Alain Denize with global aid consulting group Management Systems International describes the earthquake’s destruction. He lives in Thomassin, about 10 minutes from Port-au-Prince, and spoke to Simon Marks by telephone:

“There’s a lot of screaming outside, and I hear sirens from down the hill.”

Hear excerpts of the interview here:

Resource: U.S. Geological Survey provides maps and more details about the earthquake.

Update 10:23 p.m. | Haiti native and musician Wyclef Jean released this statement:

“I cannot stress enough what a human disaster this is, and idle hands will only make this tragedy worse. The over 2 million people in Port-au-Prince tonight face catastrophe alone. We must act now.

“President Obama has already said that the U.S. stands ‘ready to assist’ the Haitian people. The U.S. military is the only group trained and prepared to offer that assistance immediately. They must do so as soon as possible. The international community must also rise to the occasion and help the Haitian people in every way possible.

“Many people have already reached out to see what they can do right now. We are asking those interested to please do one of two things: Either you can use your cell phone to text “Yele” to 501501, which will automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund (it will be charged to your cell phone bill), or you can visit www.Yele.org and click on DONATE.”

The American Red Cross is also accepting donations and has announced an initial $200,000 in aid.