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Major earthquake devastates Haitian capital
An earthquake hit the Haitian capital city of Port-au-Prince at 4:53 PM on Tuesday. It is feared that the quake will claim a large number of victims, especially because of poorly constructed buildings in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.
The 7.0-magnitude quake was centered 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, a city of over 2 million people. The quake was the most powerful to strike Haiti since at least 1770, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). It was centered only 5 miles underground. Two strong aftershocks, at 5.9 and 5.5 on the Richter scale, followed shortly afterwards.
John Bellini, a USGS geophysicist, told the Wall Street Journal: “With a strong and shallow earthquake like this in such a populated area, it could really cause substantial damage.” He added that 1.8 million people live in the area where the earthquake had the greatest intensity.
Tsunami alerts were issued for Cuba, the Bahamas and much of the Caribbean. The quake was felt in Santo Domingo, the capital of the neighboring Dominican Republic, and as far as eastern Cuba.
A cloud of dust blanketed the city after the quake. A hospital collapsed in the wealthier Pétionville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, along with a government ministry building, and many private houses fell into ravines. The Guardian reported that rescue efforts were proceeding with “bare hands and improvised tools.”