My thoughts, heart and prayers go out to the people of Haiti, where, as has been widely reported, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck 10 miles (15 km) southwest of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, a city of 2+ million people, at 4:53 pm (2153 GMT) Subsequent temblors of 5.5 and 5.9 magnitude also struck the area. According to the reports, there has been widespread damage, with the capital largely destroyed (AP), and huge numbers (many thousands) of wounded people. President Barack Obama has expressed his thoughts and solidarity with Haiti, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged US support.
(All photos from Twicsy/Twitpics--please note some are extremely graphic, NSFW)
The beautiful Presidential Palace, the main Cathedral, the police station, the World Bank's headquarters, and countless structures, including homes, have been severely damaged or destroyed. (The President, René Préval, and First Lady of Haiti have not been injured.) After the earthquake clouds of gray smoke filled the air, and fires were reportedly still burning across the capital. As noted above, AP is reporting that the capital city is largely destroyed. There is no electricity and no gas. The American Embassy, amazingly, appears not to have been damaged. In neighboring Pétionville, a hospital is said to have collapsed, as has a major hotel, the Montana, and an American official said that homes had fallen into a ravine. (UPDATE: Right now I'm listening to the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, and a reporter based on the north coast, Luke Renner, is saying that north of the capital and in countryside, there doesn't appear to be as much damage.)
The Presidential Palace
A great many people have probably been injured, many gravely. American diplomats are reporting that there are dead and injured people throughout the capital. Already there is an immense need for humanpower, supplies, fresh and potable water, portable hospitals, medicine, and all kinds of other resources. If you can afford to and want to help out, CNN has this list of options. Maddow's links are here. If you have family members in Haiti you are trying to reach, the State Department has set up a toll free number you can call: 888-407-4747.
There is never a good time for an earthquake, but this is an especially fraught moment for Haiti, the most densely populated and poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti is still recovering from the aftereffects of hurricanes over the last several years, and was also beginning to reconstruct its severely damaged manufacturing sector in an effort to jumpstart its economy. For its recovery, the support of the US, Canada, the EU, and many other countries will be absolutely necessary, and as I've noted above, the US has already pledged whatever support Haiti needs.
On the DR1 forums, people living in some Dominican cities, such as Cabarete and Santiago, reported feeling the quake, but there doesn't appear to have been much, if any damage, on the Dominican side of the border. On CNN, I saw reports that tremors were felt in eastern Cuba. There was a tsunami watch for many of the nearby islands as well as Hispaniola itself, and on DR1 someone linked to a report of a small tsunami.
Maddow's report is below: