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Major catastrophe as earthquake smashes Haiti
Damage reported: A map showing the earthquake location in Haiti
Posted 1 hour 5 minutes ago
Updated 22 minutes ago
Haiti's ambassador to the US says a "catastrophe of major proportions" is unfolding in his country this morning after a major 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit near the capital Port-Au-Prince.
The epicentre of the quake, which was initially reported off the coast, was located inland, 10km west of Carrefour, close to the capital, and was only 30km deep.
One witness says buildings have collapsed in Port-Au-Prince and people can be heard screaming. The witness says dead and injured are under the rubble.
Ambassador Raymond Alcide Joseph told CNN he was heartbroken as he had just spoken by telephone with a senior presidential aide who described scenes of chaos and devastation.
"He had to stop his car just about half an hour ago, and take to the streets, start walking, but he said houses were crumbling on the right side of the street and the left side of the street," Mr Joseph said.
"He does not know whether he would reach his home, not knowing what he would find, because he had a bridge to cross to get there."
An AFP correspondent said the ground shook for more than a minute.
Another AFP correspondent in Petionville said one three-storey building was toppled, and a tractor was already at the scene trying to dig out victims as people fled onto the streets in panic. The up-scale area is home to many foreign diplomats and members of a major United Nations mission to the country.
"Just experienced a MAJOR earthquake here in Port au Prince - walls were falling down. - we are ALL fine - pray for those in the slums," Twitter user Troy Livesay wrote this morning.
Other reports say at least one hospital has collapsed.
The quake was followed by at least two weaker aftershocks.
A major earthquake of magnitude 7 or higher is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage. There was no immediate report of damage or casualties.
A tsunami watch was in effect for Haiti, Cuba, The Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.
"A destructive widespread tsunami threat does not exist based on historical earthquake and tsunami data," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.
"However, there is the possibility of a local tsunami that could affect coasts located usually no more than a 100 kilometres from the earthquake epicentre."
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
Powerful Earthquake Rocks Haiti
By LIZ ROBBINS
Published: January 12, 2010
A powerful earthquake of 7.0 magnitude rocked Haiti just before 5 p.m. Eastern time, 10 miles southwest from the highly populated capital of Port-au-Prince, according to the United States Geological Survey, causing widespread damage and panic with the potential for a high number of casualties in the impoverished Caribbean country.
There were two aftershocks — of 5.5 and 5.9 magnitude — that followed in the last hour, and more were expected, according to David Wald, a seismologist with the survey.
“The main issue here will probably be shaking,” Mr. Wald said, “and this is an area that is particularly vulnerable in terms of construction practice, and with a highly population density. There could be a high number of casualties.”
The city has about 2 million people, according to National Geographic.
According to several news reports, a large hospital in the capital had collapsed, and people were screaming in streets full of rubble.
Elsie St. Louis-Accilien, the director of the Haitian Americans United for Progress in Queens, N.Y., said that she was able to reach the director of Ofatma hospital, in Port-au-Prince. “They are trapped inside,” Ms. St. Louis-Accilien said in a telephone interview. “They were pretty shaken, but they were relieved to be alive.” She said that the director said that there was “a lot of smoke, a lot of dust,” and that her phone has been ringing nonstop. “People are calling me, elected officials are calling, asking what we can do.”
Haiti, by far the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, has been beset by natural disasters for most of its recent history. The island is struck by an annual series of hurricanes and is particularly vulnerable to storm-related disasters because much of its forests have been chopped down and used for fuel, leaving the country with very little tree cover. In one of its hardest hit years, 2004, Haiti was rocked by powerful Hurricane Jeanne, which caused untold destruction and killed 3,000 people.
Since 2008, the island has been struck by at least three severe hurricanes — Gustav, Hanna and Ike — that have wrought nearly a billion dollars worth of damage and killed 800 people. All of this has taken place against the backdrop of food riots, health crises and near constant government instability and upheavals.
Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, said in an interview on CNN that he had little information about the extent of damage but said the suffering inflicted on the was likely to be “catastrophic.”
Mr. Joseph said that the one official he had reached — identified by The Associated Press as President Rene Preval’s chief of staff, Fritz Longchamp — told him that houses had crumbled “on the right side of the street and the left side of the street.”
An Associated Press videographer saw the wrecked hospital in Petionville, a hillside Port-au-Prince district that is home to many diplomats and wealthy Haitians. And a United States government official reported seeing houses that had tumbled into a ravine.
Delores Clark, a spokeswoman for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said that scientists were quickly conducting water level measurements and other analyses to determine whether the quake set off a tsunami in other parts of the Caribbean. As of 6 p.m. Eastern, they had not detected one, she said.
Because the fault that likely caused the earthquake is on land, rather than in the water, Mr. Wald said, there was less of a probability of a tsunami. But such an earthquake likely would mean more damage to the city and its surrounding areas, he added.
An earthquake of this magnitude has not hit the region in more than 250 years, according to Mr. Wald. Before Tuesday, the most powerful earthquake to hit the region was 6.7 magnitude, in 1984.
Untold Numbers Still Trapped in Rubble of Worst Quake in Haitian History
Laurel Bowman | Washington 13 January 2010
As untold numbers lay dead and or buried in the rubble of Haiti's worst earthquake ever, the impoverished nation is calling on the world to help.
It was a nation already vulnerable, the poorest in the Western hemisphere, with a history of lax construction. The International Red Cross says the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti leaves close to a third of the population in need of emergency aid. Thousands are feared dead.
"What I know is that Port-au-Prince has been destroyed beginning with the palace, which is a very solid building. If the place itself is hit that hard imagine what happens to the flimsy abodes hanging by the flanks, the sides of hills surrounding Port-au-Prince. It's going to be a major catastrophe," said Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph.
Joseph is calling for up to quadruple the amount of U.S. aid to his country, which now stands at about $300 million. He calls on the international community to help as well.
"Because the way it is, Port-au-Prince has to be rebuilt," he added. "And I think a lot of the shanty towns that were crushed should not be rebuilt in Port-Au-Prince. Decentralized."
On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama promised a full-scale humanitarian effort.
"I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives," he said.
The United Nations said Wednesday that more than 100 people are missing from its wrecked headquarters.
"The U.N. Headquarters at the Christopher Hotel collapsed in the quake," said Mr. Ban. "Many people are still trapped inside."
Meantime, aid from around the world is bound for Haiti on its way from a range of countries including Iceland, China and Israel.
"We are heading to Haiti together with the first delegation of the Army's Home Front Command so we can examine how Israel can help in this terrible tragedy," said Danny Saaban of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
People have sent their donations to various relief organizations and their prayers, including the Pope.
"I assure my spiritual closeness to those who have lost their homes, and to all the people who are suffering in various ways for this calamity," said Pope Benedict.
The United Nations reports that the main airport in Haiti's capital is operational and open to relief flights in the coming days.
Thousands feared dead in Haiti quake
By Jonathan M. Katz, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
An injured resident after an earthquake in Port-au-Prince January 13, 2010. The death toll in Haiti's catastrophic earthquake could top 100,000, the country's prime minister said on Wednesday.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Dazed survivors wandered past dead bodies in rubble-strewn streets Wednesday, crying for loved ones, and rescuers searched collapsed buildings as officials feared the death toll from Haiti's devastating earthquake could reach into the tens of thousands.
The first cargo planes with food, water, medical supplies, shelter and sniffer dogs headed to the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation a day after the magnitude-7 quake flattened much of the capital of 2 million people.
Tuesday's earthquake brought down buildings great and small - from shacks in shantytowns to President Rene Preval's gleaming white National Palace, where a dome tilted ominously above the manicured grounds.
Hospitals, schools and the main prison collapsed. The capital's Roman Catholic archbishop was killed when his office and the main cathedral fell. The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission was missing in the ruins of the organization's multistory headquarters.
At a triage centre improvised in a hotel parking lot, people with cuts, broken bones and crushed ribs moaned under tent-like covers fashioned from bloody sheets.
"I can't take it any more. My back hurts too much," said Alex Georges, 28, who was still waiting for treatment a day after the school he was in collapsed and killed 11 classmates. A body lay a few feet away.
"This is much worse than a hurricane," said doctors' assistant Jimitre Coquillon. "There's no water. There's nothing. Thirsty people are going to die."
Bodies were everywhere in Port-au-Prince: those of tiny children adjacent to schools, women in the rubble-strewn streets with stunned expressions frozen on their faces, men hidden beneath plastic tarps and cotton sheets.
Haiti's leaders struggled to comprehend the extent of the catastrophe - the worst earthquake to hit the country in 200 years - even as aftershocks still reverberated.
"It's incredible," Preval told CNN. "A lot of houses destroyed, hospitals, schools, personal homes. A lot of people in the street dead. ... I'm still looking to understand the magnitude of the event and how to manage."
Preval said thousands of people were probably killed. Leading Sen. Youri Latortue told The Associated Press that 500,000 could be dead, but conceded that nobody really knows.
"Let's say that it's too early to give a number," Preval said.
The lack of communications also frustrated efforts to determine the fate of some 6,000 Canadians living in Haiti, including two missing RCMP officers and former Liberal MP Serge Marcil.
The only known Canadian casualty was a nurse from Elmira, Ont., who died in a building collapse.
Haiti seems especially prone to catastrophe - from natural disasters like hurricanes, storms, floods and mudslides to crushing poverty, unstable governments, poor building standards and low literacy rates.
In Petionville, next to the capital, people used sledgehammers and their bare hands to dig through a collapsed commercial centre, tossing aside mattresses and office supplies. More than a dozen cars were entombed, including a UN truck.
Nearby, about 200 survivors, including many children, huddled in a theatre parking lot using sheets to rig makeshift tents and shield themselves from the sun.
Looting began almost as quickly as the quake struck at 4:53 p.m. and people were seen carrying food from collapsed buildings. Many lugged what they could salvage and stacked it around them as they slept in streets and parks.
People streamed into the Haitian countryside, where wooden and cinderblock shacks showed little sign of damage. Many balanced suitcases and other belongings on their heads. Ambulances and UN trucks raced in the opposite direction, toward Port-au-Prince.
About 3,000 police and international peacekeepers cleared debris, directed traffic and maintained security in the capital. But law enforcement was stretched thin even before the quake and would be ill-equipped to deal with major unrest.
An American aid worker was trapped for about 10 hours under the rubble of her mission house before she was rescued by her husband, who told CBS' "Early Show" that he drove 160 kilometres to Port-au-Prince to find her. Frank Thorp said he dug for more than an hour to free his wife, Jillian, and a co-worker, from under about a foot of concrete.
The international Red Cross said a third of the country's nine million people may need emergency aid, a burden that would test any nation and a crushing catastrophe for impoverished Haiti.
President Barack Obama promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort and American officials said they were responding with ships, helicopters, transport planes and a 2,000-member marine unit, as well as civilian emergency teams from across the U.S.
"We have to be there for them in their hour of need," Obama said.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, was expected to arrive off the coast of Haiti on Thursday. More U.S. Navy ships were under way as well, the U.S. Southern Command said.
Canada is also sending helicopters, ships and a disaster response team to rescue those buried alive in the rubble and help thousands of homeless wandering the streets without food, water or medical help.
A huge C-17 military transport plane is scheduled to fly to Haiti on Thursday carrying a utility helicopter and other equipment and personnel. Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the transport planes can be used to evacuate Canadians if necessary.
Naval officials said two ships, HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Halifax, are being prepared to leave Thursday for Haiti. They will carry everything from a helicopter to chainsaws, generators, and first-aid kits.
Cuba, which already had hundreds of doctors in Haiti, treated the injured in field hospitals. The aid group Doctors Without Borders helped quake victims in tent clinics set up to replace its damaged facilities.
Port-au-Prince's ruined buildings fell on both the poor and the prominent: The body of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, 63, was found in the ruins of his office, according to the Rev. Pierre Le Beller at Miot's order, the Saint Jacques Missionary Center in Landivisiau, France.
Senate President Kelly Bastien was among those trapped alive inside the Parliament building, and a day later had stopped responding to rescuers' cries, Latortue said.
Even the main prison in the capital fell down, "and there are reports of escaped inmates," UN humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva.
Haiti's quake refugees likely will face an increased risk of dengue fever, malaria and measles - problems that plagued the impoverished country before, said Kimberley Shoaf, associate director of the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters.
Some of the biggest immediate health threats include respiratory disease from inhaling dust from collapsed buildings and diarrhea from drinking contaminated water.
She said swamped clinics may not be able to give people help they need for broken bones and other injuries, leading to complications - a warning borne out on the streets where people, some covered in the dust of collapsed buildings, nursed wounds that bled through crude bandages.
The UN's 9,000-member peacekeeping force sent patrols across the capital's streets while securing the airport, port and main buildings - but also struggled to rescue colleagues from their collapsed headquarters.
UN mission head Hedi Annabi of Tunisia was among about 150 people missing, mostly at the headquarters building, said peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said Annabi's chief deputy, Luis Carlos da Costa, was missing as well.
Le Roy said only about 10 people had been pulled out, many of them badly injured.
Brazil's army reported that at least 11 of its peacekeepers were killed. Jordan's official news agency said three of its peacekeepers were died.
The U.S. Embassy had no confirmed reports of deaths among the estimated 40,000-45,000 Americans who live in Haiti, but many were struggling to find a way out of the country.
FBI warning of Haiti earthquake scams
By Linda Petty, CNN
January 13, 2010 6:21 p.m. EST
* To help Haiti earthquake victims, check out charities at Impact Your World
* FBI says don't click on links or files in unsolicited donation request e-mails
* Do not ever donate cash; don't give your credit card info to people phoning for donations
* Ask if charity is registered and what percentage of money goes to victims
(CNN) -- As the world looks for ways to help the victims of Haiti's earthquake, the FBI is now warning that there are also those who are looking for opportunities set up scams surrounding the latest disaster relief efforts.
The FBI advises that people should be very skeptical of any unsolicited appeals they receive or find on the Internet.
One month after Hurricane Katrina, the FBI said it was suspicious of most of the 4,600 Web sites soliciting money on behalf of those victims. Within an hour of the World Trade Center attacks, scam sites popped up on the Web according to ScamBusters.org.
At CNN's Impact Your World, you can find a list of list of Web sites of charities highly rated by CharityNavigator.org, an independent, nonprofit organization that evaluates and rates thousands of charity groups based on effectiveness and financial stability.
But Web sites are not the only way criminals try to get their hands on charity funds -- they might also send you an e-mail, a letter, phone you or even knock on your door.
Here are some tips from the FBI, Scam.Busters and the Better Business Bureau on how to make sure your money goes to people in need.
• Be skeptical if someone e-mails you or contacts you through social networking sites claiming to be a quake victim or a government or charity official and asks for donations, the FBI says. Also, the agency says, do not click on any links within those e-mails. And do not click on attached files labeled photos or video because they may contain viruses.
• It's OK to be suspicious. Ask for the name, phone number and address of the charity. The American Institute of Philanthropy says honest charities encourage you to know about them and respond to your questions. Also, request that they put the information in writing.
• However, do not give them your personal or financial information, because that may leave you vulnerable to identity theft.
• Don't be misled by a charity name that "sort of sounds familiar." Scammers may change one word in the title to trick you.
• Ask if the charity is registered with any organization and get the registration number. Check for the organization on Web sites such as the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, or Charity Navigator.org.
• Ask what percentage of the money you give actually reaches the needy. You also can designate how your donation is to be used.
• Don't ever donate cash. Make the check out to the name of the charity, not the person asking for money. And get a receipt with the name of the charity on it. Do NOT give your credit card number to telemarketers or use it on a Web site of a charity you have not checked out.
• If the person seeking your donation asks you to give more, that may be a sign that something is wrong. Legitimate charities are grateful, not demanding.
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