A 7.1 earthquake off Haiti has caused major damage and death in the poor Caribbean island and resulted in the Northern Caribbean being placed under a tsunami watch. While the country is without electrical supply due to the widespread damages, it is believe that by dawn, death tolls will rise as rescue efforts intensify. According to various streaming news outlets in Haiti, screams and cries for help could be heard as a hospital and other buildings collapsed, burying people under the rubble.
Residents reported seeing houses crumbling on the streets, while others told reports on site that they had seen other homes falling into a ravine during the 4:53 pm quake which was centered about 10 miles south-west of Port-au-Prince. The magnitude of the tremor was initially indicated to be 7.3 but was soon after revised to 7.0. It was followed by a 5.9 magnitude aftershock and another of 5.5 magnitudes. The quake triggered a tsunami watch which is in effect for Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, but the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no indication that a tsunami had been generated. The Center added that experts believe that areas further from the epicenter could experience small sea level changes and strong or unusual coastal currents.
According to multiple news report, the presidential palace in Port-Au-Prince collapsed and many other public buildings across the capital were destroyed. Reports from Haiti is that other structures that collapsed include those housing the finance ministry, the ministry of public works, the ministry of communication and culture, the parliament building and a cathedral in the capital.
A Miami Herald journalist stated in a report that President Rene Preval has escaped unhurt, but no official word has come out from Haiti. The earthquake also destroyed the headquarters of the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission on the island.
For its part the President of the United States of America, Barrack Obama issued a statement saying the US "stood ready" to help the people of Haiti and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the US will provide both military and civilian aid.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and one of the poorest of the world.