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100,000 feared dead in horrific Haiti quake

A Haitian woman is covered in rubble on January 12, 2010 in Port-au-Prince after a huge earthquake measuring 7.0 rocked the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti, toppling buildings and causing widespread damage and panic, officials and AFP witnesses said. A tsunami alert was immediately issued for the Caribbean region after the earthquake struck at 2153 GMT. Pkhoto courtesy AFP

Poor construction led to Haiti quake devastation: US experts
Washington (AFP) Jan 13, 2010 - US engineers Wednesday blamed lax building standards for the devastation in Haiti, where a powerful earthquake brought buildings crumbling to the ground, trapping thousands beneath rubble. "The quality of construction in Haiti, even in buildings that are supposedly engineered construction, is not good at all," said Farzad Naeim, president of the board of directors of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI). "There's no question that the lack of quality control and not using engineering knowledge that is widely available had something to do with the massive devastation we're seeing," said Naeim, who edited the Seismic Design Handbook and is vice president of a structural engineering firm in California.

From photographs he has seen of the devastation in Haiti, Naeim said many of the larger buildings were built using nonductile concrete -- described in a report presented at the World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Beijing in 2008 as "arguably... the greatest seismic life safety hazard in many urban centers worldwide because of the collapse potential." Construction codes in the United States today require that buildings have ductility -- "a property that allows them to distort like a coat hanger without breaking" -- according to EERI, but many buildings were built with nonductile concrete, including in the United States, up to the mid-1970s. Many of the buildings that collapsed in Haiti "have been there for ages and generally older buildings are not up to the task. And the money is not there to bring them up to the task."

Ron Hamburger of the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations said the wreckage in Port-au-Prince was worsened by the fact that the powerful quake had its epicenter just a few miles outside the Haitian capital. "A magnitude seven earthquake located 10 miles from the city is a very, very serious event," Hamburger said. "Surviving an earthquake like that takes very rigorous design rules and building code and enforcement that things are actually constructed in accordance with the code. "I have heard that Haiti does not have strict building code enforcement, and so it's likely even the things that people believed to be reinforced were not constructed or designed to an adequate standard," he said. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said more than 100,000 people were feared dead in his country after Tuesday's 7.0 magnitude quake.
by Staff Writers
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Jan 13, 2010
More than 100,000 people were feared dead in Haiti Wednesday after a calamitous earthquake razed homes, hotels, and hospitals, leaving the capital in ruins and bodies strewn in the streets.

Schools collapsed, trapping the dead inside, and the cries of desperate victims escaped from flattened buildings in the center of the capital Port-au-Prince, which an AFP correspondent said was "mostly destroyed."

A massive aid operation swung into action, with rescue teams set to fly in from across the globe to try to pull victims from the debris, bringing desperately-needed medicines and food, as a humanitarian crisis unfolded.

Casualty figures were impossible to calculate, but Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN the final death toll from the 7.0 quake could be "well over 100,000." President Rene Preval told the network 50,000 could be dead.

As people clawed through fallen masonry to search for bloodied survivors, Preval painted a scene of utter devastation.

"Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed," he told the Miami Herald.

With thousands of people missing, dazed survivors in torn clothes wandered through the rubble as more than 30 aftershocks rocked the ramshackle capital, where more than two million people live, most in extreme poverty.

Some injured survivors wore makeshift slings and blood-soaked bandages. One woman was carried on a bit of debris used as a stretcher, past piles of smashed concrete, from which crushed bodies protruded.

A second long night in the open beckoned for tens of thousands of people with nowhere to sleep, and no tools but their bare hands to try to rescue trapped compatriots.

Fanning safety fears in the crime-hit capital, the United Nations said the main prison had collapsed, allowing some inmates to flee into a city where basic services and communications were shut down.

The earthquake was the latest tragedy to hammer Haiti, which has been scarred by years of unrest, crime and political tumult.

"It is biblical, the tragedy that continues to stalk Haiti and the Haitian people," said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as she said she would shorten an Asian tour to deal with the crisis.

The quake late Tuesday struck just below the earth's surface on a notorious fault line, meaning the shock was intense and damage severe, scientists said.

With Haitian hospitals also having crumbled in the fury of the quake, medical services were struggling to cope with the flow of wounded.

Preval said that head of the UN mission to Haiti Hedi Annabi was killed when the UN headquarters collapsed.

UN officials could not confirm that, but said at least 14 of its staffers were dead, 56 were injured and a further 150 were missing.

Preval's wife, First Lady Elisabeth Preval, told the Miami Herald she had seen bodies in the streets of Port-au-Prince and had heard the cries of victims still trapped in the rubble of the parliament building.

"I'm stepping over dead bodies. A lot of people are buried under buildings. The general hospital has collapsed. We need support. We need help. We need engineers," she said.

The massive quake toppled the cupola on the gleaming white presidential palace, a major hotel where 200 tourists were missing and the headquarters of the UN mission in Haiti.

Jordan reported that three of its peacekeepers were killed and 21 wounded in the quake. Brazil said 11 of its peacekeepers were killed while eight Chinese soldiers were buried in rubble and 10 were missing, state media said.

An Argentine-staffed hospital was the only one left operating in the city and was struggling to cope with huge numbers of injured, its director told Argentine television.

"The situation is really critical because we cannot cope with this many dead and injured," Daniel Desimone told Todo Noticias.

"There are a lot of dead people in the streets, a lot of injured," he added.

US President Barack Obama vowed a swift and aggressive effort to save lives and said search and rescue teams would arrive within hours after a "heart wrenching" earthquake.

"This tragedy seems especially cruel and incomprehensible," he said.

The US military mobilized ships, aircraft and expert teams due to arrive within hours to help the relief effort. An aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, was due to arrive Thursday.

Officials said the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, home to a controversial camp for terror detainees may also be used to house refugees.

Planeloads of rescue teams and relief supplies were quickly dispatched from nations including Britain, Canada, Russia, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia.

The World Bank said it planned to extend an additional 100 million dollars in emergency aid to Haiti to help recovery and reconstruction.

The Haitian resort town of Jacmel was also devastated.

"I was driving back to Jacmel in the mountains when the entire mountain seemed to fall down all around me," said Emmet Murphy, local head of the US non-governmental organization ADCI/VOCA.

Two hundred foreigners were missing at the Hotel Montana, French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet said.

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US evangelist says quake-hit Haiti made 'devil' pact
Washington (AFP) Jan 13, 2010
US evangelical preacher Pat Robertson levied blame Wednesday for the devastating earthquake in Haiti on Haitians themselves, saying that the country "swore a pact to the devil" at its creation. "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," Robertson said on his Christian Broadcasting Network show "The 700 Club." Haitians were originally "under ... read more

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