Haitian presidential palace collapses in quake
January 13, 2010 - 11:25AM
Haiti's presidential palace and numerous other government buildings in the country's capital Port-au-Prince collapsed on Tuesday after a massive 7.0 earthquake, Haitian television, streaming online, reports.
Communications to the island, the most impoverished country in the Western hemisphere, were cut in the wake of the massive earthquake, which produced several aftershocks and prompted a tsunami warning.
A journalist with Haitian television station Haitipal, interviewed by telephone from Port-au-Prince, told the station that public buildings across the capital had been destroyed.
"The presidential palace, the finance ministry, the ministry of public works, the ministry of communication and culture [were all affected by the quake]," the reporter said, adding that the Parliament building and a cathedral in the capital were also crumbling.
Residents were buried under the rubble, a Reuters reporter in the city said.
He said he saw dozens of dead and injured people in the rubble, which blocked streets in the city.
The epicentre of the quake was located inland, only 16 kilometres from Port-au-Prince and was very shallow at a depth of only 10 kilometres.
It prompted a tsunami watch for parts the Caribbean, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.
"Everything started shaking, people were screaming, houses started collapsing ... it's total chaos," Reuters reporter Joseph Guyler Delva said.
"I saw people under the rubble and people killed," he added.
A local employee for the US charity Food for the Poor reported seeing a five-storey building collapse in Port-au-Prince, a spokeswoman for the group, Kathy Skipper, said.
Another Food for the Poor employee said there were more houses destroyed than standing in Delmas Road, a major thoroughfare in the city.
Panic-stricken residents filled the streets desperately trying to dig people from rubble or seeking missing relatives as darkness fell shortly after the quake.
"People were screaming 'Jesus, Jesus' and running in all directions," Delva said.
A major earthquake, of magnitude 7 or higher, is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage.
"A destructive widespread tsunami threat does not exist based on historical earthquake and tsunami data," the centre said.
"However, there is the possibility of a local tsunami that could affect coasts located usually no more than 100 kilometres from the earthquake epicentre."
The quake was quickly followed by two nearby, strong aftershocks of initial magnitudes of 5.9 and 5.5.