Huge Earthquake Hits Haiti

15Jan10

The Caribbean country Haiti was hit last night by the worst earthquake in 200 years. It struck about 10 km southwest of the capital, Port-au-prince, measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale. The full extent of the devastation is not yet known but it is feared that thousands may be dead. More will become clear as day breaks. The earthquake is being described as a catastrophe and whole swathes of the capital have been destroyed, including the presidential palace and the UN HQ. The quake hit at around 5pm local time and was quickly followed by two strong aftershocks, of magnitude 5.9 and 5.5, so people have spent the night outside fearing more aftershocks.

Haiti is extremely poor, with most of the population living on less than £2 a day and many sprawling poorly constructed slums. Considering the damage done to relatively robust buildings, such as large hotels and offices, these slums will undoubtedly have suffered far worse, killing thousands and leaving many more trapped. Power has gone out leaving the whole city in total darkness and vulnerable to looting. An eyewitness said, “You have thousands of people sitting in the streets with nowhere to go. There are people running, crying, screaming. People are trying to dig victims out with flashlights. I think hundreds of casualties would be a serious understatement.” The UN mission in Haiti has also been hit hard, with their HQ destroyed and a number of personnel missing. UN peacekeepers have been in the region for a while and are considered vital to the security of Haiti.

The international community is responding with the US preparing to send cutting equipment and a disaster response team, and the UK said it was mobilising help and was “ready to provide whatever humanitarian assistance that may be required.” Local and international NGOs are already on hand to send experienced disaster relief teams and emergency food aid. You can donate here.

Click here to go the Haiti Appeal

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