PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 12 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday a 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti was “catastrophic” as Washington offered aid to victims.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake was centered about 10 miles southwest of Port au Prince, the capital of the Caribbean island nation. Some injuries have been reported, the quake disrupted the country’s communication systems, sections of the National Palace crumbled and there was a report a hospital had collapsed, The Miami Herald said.
The newspaper said Haitian President Rene Preval has sought safe haven on the island nation.
Clinton said the United States was “still gathering information about this catastrophic earthquake, the point of impact, its effect on the people of Haiti.”
“The United States is offering our full assistance to Haiti and to others in the region,” she said. “We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.”
The White House said President Barack Obama has directed his staff to make sure U.S. Embassy personnel in Port au Prince are safe and to initiate planning to respond in case humanitarian assistance is necessary.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “We are closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti.”
The State Department, USAID and the U.S. Southern Command had begun work on coordinating U.S. assistance to Haiti, the White House said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a local tsunami watch for Haiti and neighboring Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Bahamas, although a major destructive wave was considered unlikely.
Raymond Joseph, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, told CNN a Haitian government official advised him property damage included an undetermined number of collapsed buildings.
“He said it is a catastrophe of major proportions,” Joseph said.
Frank Williams, Haitian director of World Vision International, told CNN “walls from buildings and private residences (were) falling into the streets.” Williams said his relief agency’s building shook for about 35 seconds and “portions of things on the building fell off.”
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