Powerful earthquake on Haiti reportedly causes major damage

January 13th, 2010 - 6:38 am ICT by BNO News  

Haiti quake HAITI (BNO NEWS) – A powerful earthquake struck near Haiti’s capital on Tuesday, prompting a tsunami watch for nearby coasts, officials said. Reports of catastrophic damage are coming in.

The earthquake happened around 4.53 p.m. local time and had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0, according to the United States Geological Survey, making it the strongest earthquake ever recorded within 200 kilometers. It struck about 10 miles southwest of the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

About 10 minutes later, at 5.01 p.m. local time, a second earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.9 struck about 30 miles away from the first tremor. A spokeswoman for the United States Geological Survey said a second aftershock struck minutes later, at 5.12 p.m. local time, and had a preliminary magnitude of 5.5.

There was no destructive widespread tsunami threat following the earthquakes, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, who put the magnitude of the earthquake at a larger 7.1. However, it said, there is a possibility of a local tsunami that could affect coasts located usually no more than 100 kilometers from the earthquake epicenter.

“Authorities for the region near the epicenter should be aware of this possibility,” the center said in a bulletin. “Areas further from the epicenter could experience small sea level changes and strong or unusual coastal currents.”

Because a tsunami threat exists to coasts within 100 kilometers from the epicenter, tsunami watches have been issued for Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

It was not immediately clear if a tsunami was actually generated because sea level readings were not yet available more than one hour after the earthquake.

Details of damage were still sketchy following the event. “There is a very good chance of significant damage,” the United States Geological Survey said. One report said a hospital on Haiti had collapsed, trapping people underneath the rubble.

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake is described as “major” and can cause serious damage over larger areas, especially in poor regions with poor construction of buildings.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake,” President Obama said in a statement released by the earthquake. “We are closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti.”

The White House said that Obama was first informed of the earthquake at 5.52 p.m. EDT. Obama immediately asked his staff to make sure that embassy personnel is safe, and to begin preparations in the event that humanitarian assistance is needed. The U.S. State Department, USAID and the United States Southern Command have begun working to coordinate an assessment and any such assistance.

On Jamaica, small tremors were felt, said Gregory, a person who picked up the phone at the Hilton Kingston Hotel. “I’m not aware of any damage,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management said she was not aware of damage. “A number of Caribbean islands have felt the earthquake,” she said.
Haiti earthquake

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