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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Haïti: plus de 100 000 morts dans le tremblement de terre

by as yet unknown

Haiti: More Than 100,000 Die in Earthquake

Translated Sunday 17 January 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Derek Hanson

The figure was announced by Haiti’s prime minister on CNN. A powerful earthquake of 7 magnitude hit Haiti on Tuesday evening, killing and injuring a great number of people and destroying buildings in Port-au-Prince the capital where hundreds, possibly thousands of people were buried under the rubble, witnesses said.

The epicentre of the earthquake was located further inland, only 10 km underground and 16 km away from the capital, where scenes of panic have been taking place.

A geophysicist of the US geological society in Golden, Colorado, pointed out that no earthquake as big as this one had been recorded in Haiti for more than 200 years.

“There were two major earthquakes in 1750 and 1771, but since then there has been nothing like this,” Dale Grant said.

People rushed out into the streets of the city while a cloud of dust and smoke rose up into the sky. As the sun set above scenes of chaos, some of the city-dwellers, using torches, tried to find survivors in the rubble of buildings that had collapsed.

The presidential palace is in ruin and its domes lie on the ground while the walls have collapsed. “My country is facing a major catastrophe,” US Ambassador in Haiti Raymond Alcide Joseph commented on CNN.

The earthquake was followed a few minutes later by a powerful aftershock of 5.9 magnitude, and a tsunami alert was called in the Caribbean zone.

“Everything started shaking, people screamed, houses began to collapse. It was complete chaos,” said Joseph Guyler Delva, a Reuters reporter.

The overall toll has not been published yet, but according to witnesses hundreds of people are still trapped under the buildings, tenement houses, hotels and shops that collapsed and spilled rubble that now block the streets.

US Assistance

An officer of the US non-profit association Food for the Poor says he saw a five-storey building collapse while a colleague of his said that on Delmas Road, a main thoroughfare, more houses had collapsed than were left standing.

Phone landlines and cell phone systems in the capital were knocked out, except via satellite.

Ian Rogers, of the association Save the Children, related on CNN how he had heard people groan and scream as darkness fell on the city.

News of the catastrophe was no sooner broken than President Obama declared that “his thoughts and prayers” went out to the people of Haiti and promised to provide all the assistance needed.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and we are ready to lend assistance to the people of Haiti,” he declared in a statement.

The US administration specified that the State Department, the civil security and the US army were busy assessing the situation and coordinating the assistance needed.

“The US will supply civil and military aid to the catastrophe as well as humanitarian assistance,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared.

The US agency for international development (USAID) will send a team of 72 members to the island as well as six rescue dogs and 48 tons of emergency equipment.

The five-storey building used as the UN headquarters was seriously damaged and nothing is known of the fate of a great many members of the mission, a spokesperson announced in New York. About 9000 UN soldiers and policemen were stationed in Haiti as part of Minustah (UN mission for stabilisation in Haiti).

The World Bank, whose offices in the suburb were destroyed, announced on Tuesday that it was about to send a team to Haiti to assess the damage caused by the powerful earthquake.

The World Bank also declared that it had started working on reconstruction projects and was ready to provide assistance, without specifying the amount.

The inter-American development bank itself says it has released $200,000 in emergency aid for food, water, drugs and shelters for the victims. Scavengers were already active all through Tuesday night in a supermarket to the north of Port-au-Prince, while many corpses were strewn along the roads after the earthquake that struck Haiti, a AFP reporter said.

Looters took advantage of the collapse of the supermarket to remove all that was left within.

Many corpses and casualties were to be seen in the northern districts of the capital, in the neighbourhood on either side of the Delmas road.

The streets of the city were also crowded in some places where many Haitians seemed determined to spend the night after leaving their houses, some of which had been razed to the ground.

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