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Haiti Earthquake: Crisis and Response

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Congressional research rept.

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The largest earthquake ever recorded in Haiti devastated parts of the country, including the capital, on January 12, 2010. The quake, centered about 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, had a magnitude of 7.0. A series of strong aftershocks followed. Witnesses are describing the damage as severe and catastrophic. Communication services were cut off by the earthquake, so detailed information has been limited. Initial reports indicate that thousands of buildings collapsed, leaving unknown numbers of people trapped, and tens of thousands of people homeless in the streets. Early estimates of casualties are constantly being updated, but already reach into the hundreds of thousands. According to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, of Haitis 9 million people, initial reports suggest roughly a third may be affected by the disaster. About 45,000 U.S. citizens live in Haiti, and the Embassy has been asked to help account for about 3,000 of them. Describing conditions in his country as unimaginable following the earthquake, President Rene Preval appealed for international assistance. The countrys top priority was to conduct search and rescue operations for survivors. Other priorities included an offshore vessel medical unit and electricity generation capability. The government also requested communications equipment so that government officials can better function and coordinate response efforts. The Haitian government, the United Nations, and donor representatives met in Haiti on January 14 to coordinate their efforts. The arrival of humanitarian supplies has begun, but access to Port-au-Prince and the distribution of aid to people in need is difficult and hampered by a number of significant challenges that are impeding rescue efforts and movement. People are gathering in open spaces and some are reportedly leaving Port-au-Prince for other areas in Haiti.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Medicine and Medical Research
  • Safety Engineering
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Escape, Rescue and Survival
  • Food, Food Service and Nutrition
  • Hygiene and Sanitation

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