The US is preparing to offer assistance at this time.
Elsie St. Louis-Accilien, the director of the Haitian Americans United for Progress in Queens, N.Y., said that she was able to reach the director of Ofatma hospital, in Port-au-Prince. “They are trapped inside,” Ms. St. Louis-Accilien said in a telephone interview. “They were pretty shaken, but they were relieved to be alive.”The natural disasters put such a strain on basic services that the country can never get ahead of the curve, leaving untold misery in its wake.
She said that the director said that there was “a lot of smoke, a lot of dust,” and that her phone has been ringing nonstop. “People are calling me, elected officials are calling, asking what we can do.”
The White House said President Obama was informed of the earthquake at 5:52 p.m. He directed his staff to begin preparations in case humanitarian assistance is needed. The State Department, the United States Agency for International Development and the United States Southern Command began working to coordinate an assessment, aides said.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti.”
Haiti, by far the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, has been beset by natural disasters for most of its recent history. The island is struck by an annual series of hurricanes and is particularly vulnerable to storm-related disasters because much of its forests have been chopped down and used for fuel, leaving the country with very little tree cover. In one of its hardest hit years, 2004, Haiti was rocked by powerful Hurricane Jeanne, which caused untold destruction and killed 3,000 people.
Reports are starting to come out that this is a major catastrophe for the Haitian people.
Sections of the National Palace have crumbled and there were reports of injuries.
``There are people injured in the palace,'' said Fritz Longchamp, executive director of the palace. ``I'm calling for help and medical assistance for them.''
Haitian President René Préval and the First Lady have sought safe haven on the island, The Miami Herald has learned.
Part of the road to Canape Vert, a suburb of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, has collapsed, as have houses perched in the mountains of Petionville, where the quake was centered. Petionville is a suburb some 10 miles up from downtown from Port-au-Prince.