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Haiti in chaos after 7.0 quake

A mighty earthquake rocked the small, impoverished island nation of Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing a hospital, the presidential palace and other buildings, triggering massive panic and claiming an as-yet uncounted number of lives -- perhaps thousands. Screams for help emanated from felled buildings, and chaos reigned. One diplomat called the quake a “catastrophe” in one of the countries least equipped to handle it. As night fell on the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, a city of 2 million, reports emerged of extensive destruction; homes and buildings a shambles; trapped, seriously injured victims; and residents sleeping in streets. Tsunami alerts were issued for Cuba, the Bahamas and much of the Caribbean, and numerous aftershocks were reported. The quake, one of the most powerful ever in the region, measured a preliminary magnitude of 7.0. It was centered about 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince and was shallow, just five miles deep. It struck about 4:53 p.m., hitting one of the city’s most densely populated areas. All of that augured vast damage and overwhelming casualties. Electricity in the capital was out Tuesday night, telephone communications were down, and the airport was closed. “We are hearing of sheer devastation,” said Caryl Stern, president of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, which has 100 workers in Haiti. UNICEF employees in Port-au-Prince reported seeing a school collapse with children inside. “It’s horrible,” Stern said. “The worst earthquake in such a poor region. You are starting from behind the eight ball.” Photos emerging from Haiti showed buildings in rubble and houses tumbled down ravines. Thousands of people gathered in public squares late into the night, singing hymns, the Associated Press reported. The poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti, with a population of about 9 million, shares a border with the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola. Some residents reportedly felt some shaking in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, but no serious damage was reported. Already battered in recent years by storms, military coups and gang violence, much of Haiti is a hodgepodge of slums, shoddy construction and people living on the edge. “I can hear very distressed people . . . a lot of distress, people wailing, trying to find loved ones trapped under the rubble,” Ian Rod


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