Quake Slams Haiti; Thousands Feared Dead

Magnitude 7.0, only 10 miles from Port-au-Prince; collapsed buildings reported.

ByABC News
January 12, 2010, 5:52 PM

Jan. 12, 2010 — -- A major earthquake struck just off the coast of Haiti late this afternoon, causing extensive damage in the capital of Port-au-Prince. One aid worker said, "There must be thousands of people dead."

The quake had a magnitude of 7.0, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and was centered just 10 miles from Port-au-Prince.

The center was also relatively shallow, less than 10 miles below ground, increasing the risk of damage.

Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in Port-au-Prince, told U.S. colleagues before phone service failed that "there must be thousands of people dead," a spokeswoman for the aid group told The Associated Press.

"He reported that it was just total disaster and chaos, that there were clouds of dust surrounding Port-au-Prince," Sara Fajardo said from the group's offices in Maryland.

State Department Asst. Secretary for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley told reporters that embassy staff "reported structures down. They reported a lot of walls down. They did see a number of bodies in the street and on the sidewalk that had been hit by debris. So clearly, there's going to be serious loss of life in this."

Early reports said a hospital in nearby Petionville had collapsed, and a videographer for The Associated Press said he could hear people screaming for help.

A Reuters reporter, quoting workers for a U.S. charity, Food for the Poor, said there were more houses destroyed than standing in Delmas Road, a major thoroughfare in Port-au-Prince. An employee of Food for the Poor said a five-story building had collapsed.

There were other reports of damage, but they could not be immediately confirmed.

"I couldn't even stand up, that's how bad it was," said Valerie Moliere, a 15-year-old resident of Port-au-Prince, reached by ABC News. "There's a lot of people in the street everywhere. Some are wounded."