Major quake rocks Haiti

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Santo Domingo - A major earthquake rocked Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing a hospital and damaging several government buildings, including the presidential palace in the capital city.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which was the strongest ever recorded in the area, reportedly collapsed a hospital in a hillside district of Port-au-Prince.

The presidential palace, buildings of the finance and public works ministries, the parliament building and a cathedral in Port-au-Prince were also damaged.

The earthquake, which was centered 15km southwest of the capital city at a depth of 10km, struck at about 4:53pm local time (2153 GMT), the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The USGS said the earthquake was followed by a tsunami seven minutes later and two aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5 degrees respectively.

Power supplies were cut off in affected areas and communications were interrupted. Heavy casualties are feared although no official reports are available.

The earthquake was also felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares the Espanola Island with Haiti. The Dominican Republic has asked for assistance to Haiti.

"The information we have is that the situation in Haiti is difficult, so we ask Latin America and all the world to help our neighbour," said Dominican Republic presidential office spokesman Frafael Nunez.

US President Barack Obama has said his country was ready to send in humanitarian aid.

The Tsunami Warning Center of the Pacific on Tuesday issued a tsunami alert for Haiti, Cuba, Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.