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A major earthquake devastated Haiti yesterday, destroying much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince and leaving an untold number of casualties in its wake. At noon today, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN that he believed more than 100,000 had perished in the quake, and the Red Cross estimated that the disaster had affected roughly one in three Haitians, a country of more than 10 million.
The 7.0 magnitude quake was the worst to hit the region in 200 years. It struck southern Haiti at 5:14 p.m. on Tuesday, the epicenter 9.3 miles southwest from the capital. Many buildings were destroyed or damaged in the quake, including the National Palace, the United Nations' headquarters in Haiti, hospitals and the local offices of the World Bank. The quake was followed by several aftershocks, none as severe as the first.
"All of the hospitals are packed with people," said Haitian President René Préval, according to the New York Times. "It is a catastrophe."
Shaking was felt throughout the region, with trembling felt in Cuba, Jamaica, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
No damage was reported in the Dominican Republic, but the earthquake was felt throughout the country. "We felt the quake, but no damage," said José Seijas, who runs Tabacalera de Garcia Ltd., one of the largest cigar factories in the Dominican Republic, which is located in La Romana on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic.
Closer to Haiti, in the cigarmaking capital of Santiago, the shaking appeared worse, although no damage was reported there either.
"I started to feel dizzy. Everything was shaking—everyone was running," said José Blanco, sales director for La Aurora S.A., the nation's oldest cigar company. He was inside his company offices some 250 kilometers from Haiti when the quake struck. "You could hear cracking—it was like the end of the world. In the parking lot, my car was going back and forth. And the lampposts were moving. "Blanco said the earth shook for more than one minute. "Those were the longest minute ten seconds of my life. I thought it was never going to stop."
Manuel Quesada, owner of Manufactura de Tabacos S.A. in Santiago, also felt the shaking. "Thankfully we are all fine, and no damage anywhere," he said. "We felt somewhere between 5.9 and 6.1, and it lasted 30 to 35 seconds, which, in our opinion of limited earthquake knowledge, was quite long…We are all now trying to, through charitable and commercial institutions, see how we can help."
To donate to the Haitian earthquake relief effort, visit:
American Red Cross www.redcross.org
Yele Haiti (previously known as the Wyclef Jean Foundation) www.yele.org
Haitian Health Foundation www.haitianhealthfoundation.org
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