Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, has been rocked by a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit around 5PM yesterday evening. The country's capital city, Port-Au-Prince, has been all but destroyed and the Red Cross is estimating that up to three million people have been affected.
Although this is the worst earthquake to hit the country in over 200 hundred years, Haiti—the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere—has faced a series of natural disasters recently, including three hurricanes that hit the island in 2008. Since the first earthquake hit yesterday, there have been almost 30 aftershocks.
Communications on the island have been destroyed and most buildings in and around the capital were raized by the quake. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has confirmed that the United Nations headquarters on the island had collapsed and that many peacekeepers had died or were missing. UN workers, many from Brazil, were distracted during the immediate relief effort by the tragedy of the headquarters collapse, and spent hours trying to pull their colleagues and coworkers from the rubble.
Fortunately, the airport control tower is still standing, which should allow for aid pledged by the United States and other countries to reach those most in need. Red Cross spokesman Paul Conneally told The Associated Press that it would take 24-48 hours before a clear picture emerges of the scale of the destruction.
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