Thousands feared dead

Thousands of people are feared dead in Haiti after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the Caribbean island on Tuesday (January 12), according to media reports.

The quake struck ten miles south-west of the capital Port-au-Prince at around 16:53 local time. Reports suggested the initial quake was followed by two strong aftershocks reaching almost magnitude 6 on the Richter scale.

It is the Caribbean’s nation’s worst quake in two centuries. Aid agencies believe the death toll could run into thousands.

The presidential palace, the World Bank national headquarters, the United Nations mission plus numerous hospitals and hotels have been destroyed, according to the reports.

The quake prompted a tsunami watch for parts of the Caribbean but this was later cancelled.

Shallow and powerful

Experts said the quake's epicenter was at a depth of only 6.2 miles, which magnified the destruction.

Dale Grant, a US Geological Survey geophysicist in Golden, Colorado, said: "There were two major quakes there in 1751 and 1770 but, since then, there has not been a quake of this magnitude," Grant said.