Massive earthquake hits Haiti

Tragedy struck Haiti Tuesday shortly before 5 p.m. when a massive earthquake devastated the island., The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.0, and was centered 10 miles west of capital Port-au-Prince, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

CNN reported there have been least four aftershocks from the earthquake.

Communications were disrupted throughout the island, but what is known so far is that a major hospital collapsed and many other buildings were damaged. Electricity is out in many portions of the country. According to Catholic Relief Services, the death toll could be in the thousands, but there is no way to verify due to power outages Tuesday night.

This is the first major earthquake Haiti has experienced in 16 years, overshadowing a magnitude-6.7 earthquake in 1984. According to the Associated Press, after the collapse of a school in Petionville, Haiti, the mayor of Port-au-Prince reported nearly 60 percent of buildings in the city were shoddily built and potential safety hazards.

Felix Augustin, Haiti’s consul general in New York, told AP he was concerned about everyone in Haiti, including his relatives.

“Communication is absolutely impossible,” he said.

FAMU students with ties to Haiti have attempted to contact their loved ones. “I have family in Haiti; aunts, uncles, and a few cousins,” said Romel Semextant, 19, a first-year construction engineering student from Orlando. “I tried to get in contact with them through my family in Miami, but so far I haven’t heard anything…All I can do is pray right now.”

CNN reports Port-au-Prince is experiencing a complete blackout.  In Washington, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid told AP U.S. officials are holding emergency meetings.

“We need to gather what information we can quickly. We will of course assist in any way we can,” he said. Don Blakeman, an analyst at the USGS in Golden, Colo., said such a strong quake carried the potential for widespread damage.

“I think we are going to see substantial damage and casualties,” he said.

If you are a FAMU student with Haiti ties, please join the discussion below.  Check back for more updates on this breaking news story. For any student looking for information on family members, please call 1-888-407-4747