Haiti Devastated By Earthquake
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A fierce earthquake struck Haiti late Tuesday afternoon, causing widespread damage around the capital, leveling countless shantytown dwellings and bringing even more suffering to a nation that was already the hemisphere’s poorest and most disaster-prone.
The powerful earthquake of 7.0 magnitude rocked Haiti just before 5 p.m. Eastern time, 10 miles southwest from the densely populated capital of Port-au-Prince, according to the United States Geological Survey. But damage to the capital city of 2 million people was apparently widespread, according to reports from the scene. Pictures from the scene appeared to show serious damage to the National Palace.
Tequila Minsky, a photographer based in New York who was staying the Oloffson Hotel in Port-Au-Prince, said that a wall at the front of the hotel had fallen down, killing a passerby, and that several nearby buildings had collapsed, trapping people.
There were at least a dozen aftershocks — the worst two were 5.9 and 5.5 magnitude — that followed in the next 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 high population density. There could be a high number of casualties.”
According to several news reports, a large hospital in the capital had collapsed, and people were screaming in streets full of rubble.
Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Raymond Alcide Joseph, said in an interview on CNN that the country’s first lady, Elisabeth Débrosse Delatour, called the Haitian consul general in Miami to report that although she and the president, René Préval, were fine, the presidential palace and the nation’s ministry of commerce were damaged.
“These are very sturdy buildings,” Mr. Joseph said. “So if those buildings are damaged, can you imagine what’s happened to all these flimsy abodes around Port au Prince in the hillsides. I say it’s a major catastrophe.”
Mr. Joseph said that he had also spoken to the secretary general of the presidency, Fritz Lonchamps, who told him he was driving through Port au Prince when the earthquake struck.
“Buildings started to collapse right and left around him,” Mr. Joseph said. “He said, ‘Mr. Ambassador, tell the world it is a catastrophe of major proportion.’”
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