The extent of the disaster is still unclear but there are fears thousands of people may have died and tens of thousands lost their homes. In the capital Port-au-Prince–a city of two million people–thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed, including hospitals, schools and hotels. The United Nations headquarters was also reported to be severely damaged and many of its staff are reported missing.
The earthquake struck about 10 miles south-west of the capital at around 5:00pm on Tuesday. It was the strongest earthquake to hit Haiti in more than two centuries. It was followed by at least 27 aftershocks, the largest two of which were 5.9 and 5.5 in magnitude. The quake prompted a tsunami alert for parts of the Caribbean that was later cancelled.
For hours after the quake the air was filled with a choking dust from the debris of fallen buildings. People were heard screaming for help throughout the city. A Food for the Poor charity worker in Port-au-Prince told Reuters: “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 historic National Palace was also severely damaged. President Rene Preval and his wife are both reported to be alive. A number of nations, including the US, Britain, Venezuela and other Latin American countries are gearing up to send aid.
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and has suffered a number of recent disasters, including four hurricanes and storms in 2008 that killed hundreds.
Kim Ives is a journalist with the newspaper Haiti Liberté. He joins us here in the Democracy Now studio.
Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American novelist. Her books include “Brother I”m Dying." It tells the story of her uncle dying in DHS custody. She joins us from Miami.
Kim Ives, journalist with the newspaper Haiti Liberté.
Edwidge Danticat, Haitian American novelist.
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