PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The largest earthquake ever recorded in the area rocked Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing a hospital where people screamed for help and damaging other buildings.
Responding to the humanitarian crisis, President Barack Obama stated, “we are just now beginning to learn the extent of the devastation, but the reports and images that we’ve seen of collapsed hospitals, crumbled homes, and men and women carrying their injured neighbors through the streets are truly heart-wrenching.”
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued an urgent call to the international community to assist Haiti following yesterday’s catastrophic earthquake that has devastated the Caribbean nation’s capital.
Buildings and infrastructure in Port-au-Prince suffered extensive damage, while basic services, including water and electricity are near the brink of collapse. The full extent of casualties, which could number in the hundreds, is still unknown, Mr. Ban told reporters in New York.
“There is no doubt that we are facing a major humanitarian emergency and that a major relief effort will be required,” he said.
An Associated Press videographer saw the wrecked hospital in Petionville, near Port-au-Prince, and a U.S. government official reported seeing houses that had tumbled into a ravine.
No further details on any causualties or other damage were immediately available.
Don Blakeman, an analyst at the USGS in Golden, Colorado, said such a strong quake carried the potential for widespread damage.
“I think we are going to see substantial damage and casualties,” he said.
Blakeman said Haiti had already been hit by many aftershocks, the two largest registering magnitude 5.9 and 5.5.
“We expect more aftershocks because this is a large, shallow earthquake,” he said.
The quake was felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola. Some panicked residents in the capital of Santo Domingo fled from their shaking homes.
Another USGS analyst, Dale Grant, said this was “the largest quake recorded in this area.” He said the last strong quake was a magnitude-6.7 temblor in 1984.
“Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken,” said Henry Bahn, a U.S. Department of Agriculture visiting Haiti. “The sky is just gray with dust.”
Bahn said he was walking to his hotel room when the ground began to shake.
“I just held on and bounced across the wall,” he said. “I just hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance.”
Bahn said there were rocks strewn all over the place and he saw a ravine where several homes had been built. “It’s just full of collapsed walls and rubble and barbed wire,” he said.
Felix Augustin, Haiti’s consul general in New York, said he was concerned about everyone in Haiti, including his relatives.
“Communication is absolutely impossible,” he said. “I’ve been trying to call my ministry and I cannot get through. … It’s mind-boggling.”
This article was compiled from Assocated Press and Final Call reports.