7.0 quake hits impoverished Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- A strong earthquake hit the impoverished country of Haiti today, where a hospital collapsed and people were screaming for help. Other buildings also were damaged.
There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, but an analyst at the U.S. Geological Survey said there could be substantial damage and casualties. Powerful aftershocks were felt in the first hour.
The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) west from the Caribbean nation's capital of Port-au-Prince, the USGS said. It had a depth of 5 miles (8 kilometers).
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."