Status summary as of 1500z: A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Haiti at approximately 2153 UTC (1653 local time) on 12 January 2010. The quake was centered approximately 10 mi/16 km from Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami watch for parts of the Caribbean region shortly after the initial quake, but it was later canceled. The quake was reportedly also felt in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, but there were no reports of damage in those countries. The initial quake has been followed by a series of at least 28 strong aftershocks, all with a magnitude of at least 4.0. Seismologists anticipate that aftershocks will continue.
Preliminary reports indicate that damage in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area is extensive and that most of the city has been destroyed. The quake has also caused massive power and communications outages across the country, hindering rescue efforts. Reports indicate that the communications tower at Toussaint Louverture International Airport (MTPP/PAP) has collapsed, but the rest of the airport was not significantly damaged and the airport remains open. However, the main road leading to the airport is blocked with rubble and debris. American Airlines and Spirit Airlines have both canceled all flights to Haiti until further notice, and Delta Air Lines has halted its only flight to and from the country out of New Yorks JFK airport.
In addition to the airport control tower, a Petionville hospital, the Montana Hotel — which is very popular with tourists — the U.N. peacekeeping mission headquarters and many government buildings (including the parliament and a building in the presidential comound) sustained significant damage. Reports indicate that 3,000 U.N. troops are in Port-au-Prince in an effort to maintain order, while another force has begun clearing roads in the central part of the city to help relief efforts.
There is currently no clear estimate of casualties, but the Red Cross has reported that the quake has affected at least 3 million people. Among the known casualties are several U.N. peacekeepers, including the mission chief. President Rene Preval was reportedly uninjured. Additional information on damage and casualties is likely to emerge over the next 24-48 hours as rescue efforts continue.