Major quake rocks Haiti causing damage and casualties

08:36, January 13, 2010      

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· A 7.3-magnitude earthquake which struck off the coast of Haiti is feared to have killed or injured dozens of people in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Haiti's envoy to the US said it was a "catastrophe of major proportions".

Buildings, including a hospital, are reported to have collapsed, with streets said to be blocked by rubble.

The quake, which struck about 15km (10 miles) south-west of the capital, was quickly followed by two strong aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5 magnitude.

The tremor hit at 1653 (2153 GMT), the US Geological Survey said.

A Reuters reporter in Port-au-Prince said he had seen "dozens of dead and injured people" in the rubble of fallen buildings.


A major earthquake measuring 7.3 on Richter scale rocks the coast of Haiti on Jan 12, causing loss of life in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince.

"Everything started shaking, people were screaming, houses started collapsing... it's total chaos," the reporter added.

Phone communications with the country are said to have been badly disrupted.

The BBC's Nick Davies in neighbouring Jamaica says the ground apparently shook for more than a minute in Haiti.

Local people, he said, were using anything they could get their hands on - including farm equipment - to help release those trapped in the quake.

Our correspondent adds that, as the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti is likely to need international aid in order to cope with the quake's impact.

'Three million affected'

US President Barack Obama said his "thoughts and prayers" were with the people of Haiti and America stood ready to assist them.

He said he had just spoken to a government colleague in Port-au-Prince:

"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.

"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."

Mike Blanpied of the US Geological Survey said that, based on the location and size of the quake, about three million people will have been severely shaken by its impact.

"This quake occurred under land as opposed to off-shore, so a lot of people were directly exposed to the shaking coming off that earthquake fault, which was quite shallow," he told the BBC.

He added that as the quake had occurred near a highly populated urban area, the aftershocks could cause additional damage to already shaken buildings.

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