As a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday, missionary wife Heather Hopp "thought a truck had an accident on the highway and was rolling down the hill towards the house." The earthquake, with an epicenter just 10 miles southwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince, was followed by severe aftershocks that left the ground shaking for minutes and caused amounts of damage Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Raymond Alcide Joseph, described as "catastrophic."
With widespread power outages and confusion, early reports are spotty. But they indicate that at least one hospital in the capital and possibly the presidential palace have collapsed. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, a tsunami watch was put out for Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas, but was later lifted. UN officials told the BBC they could not contact their mission in Haiti but estimated as many as 3 million people could be affected by the quake.
Hopp, and her husband, Ben, a missionary with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, live with their three children about 45 minutes outside of Port-au-Prince. On the couple's blog Ben wrote, "The earthquake in Haiti about an hour ago did damage places south of us but here we only experience strong tremors. No damage to buildings or property.
"Heather was at home on our deck. She said at first she thought a truck had an accident on the highway and was rolling down the hill towards the house. The tremors lasted about 20 seconds here. The kids and I were down in the pool. I stood up and had a hard time staying in one place. The kids did not freak out but the pool was like a wave pool, with water spilling out the sides. We are grateful to be OK. We are still experiencing some light aftershocks as I write this."
Charles Amicy, a Haitian pastor who heads Presbyterian Mission in Haiti, was traveling in the country with his 11-year-old son and a medical team from Savannah, Ga., when the quake struck. "I was in Port au Prince when that happened and I saw with my own eyes several houses collapsed and several people died," Amicy emailed WORLD shortly after the quake. He said he, his family, and the team were all OK but he had not reached relatives in Port-au-Prince, adding, "For me to witness walls, buildings collapsed and people caring [for the] injured and the streets full with people crying, going here and there looking for their love ones they didn't see. I am still in shock from what happened."
Faith-based relief groups quickly mobilized for what is certain to be a massive disaster area. World Relief cited an eyewitness in Port-au-Prince who reported that the city was "just gray with dust."
Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, with a population of 8.5 million, annual per capita income of less than $400, and an average life expectancy of 53. Health officials estimate that 2 percent of the adult population is HIV positive.
In Port-au-Prince, a city of 2 million, eyewitnesses trapped in an urban center gone dark and crumpled sought to communicate via mobile phones and social networking. Carel Pedro, a photographer based in Haiti, began sending photos to friends who posted them on Twitter just moments after the second aftershock. Twitter user Marvin Ady reported, "Millions are suffering in the dark. . . . People are having a hard time finding family members."
Helping Haiti | WORLD provides a list of relief organizations accepting donations to assist earthquake victims in Haiti | The Editors | Jan. 13, 2010
Search and rescue | U.S. disaster experts, the U.S. military, and private relief groups head to earthquake-devastated Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 13, 2010
In the dark | Haitian-Americans hope to contact loved ones and quickly send aid back home to family and friends | Alisa Harris | Jan. 13, 2010
Weeping and waiting | Haitian earthquake victims await help, but obstacles slow relief efforts | Jamie Dean | Jan. 14, 2010
Desperation | Too many Haitians are in a holding pattern awaiting aid, as relief organizations try to make progress | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Long night | With tens of thousands of casualties, Haitians weep and wait for morning | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Deliverance | A group of orphans arrive safely in Pittsburgh while relief organizations report progress in Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 19, 2010
Crying for help | Hard-pressed Haitians seek assistance as aid groups face logistical challenges | Jamie Dean | Jan. 21, 2010
Leaving Port | Beyond the capital city are rural communities equally devastated by the quake and in need of help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
The new normal | As life and death continue their morbid mingling, relief groups forge ahead to help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
Finding home | Now that search-and-rescue efforts have been called off, attention turns to providing shelter for survivors | Jamie Dean | Jan. 23, 2010
Chaotic aid | Relief groups attempt to help Haitians despite murky rules, government interference, and the lack of a cohesive plan | Jamie Dean | Jan. 28, 2010
Aftershock | Caregivers predict a second wave of death, as Haitians find moments of deliverance amid days of devastation from one of the modern world's worst natural disasters | Jamie Dean | Jan. 29, 2010
Homecoming | For Haitians orphaned before the quake, it means leaving home and starting over | Alisa Harris | Jan. 29, 2010
Crisis giving | Instant need calls for long-term strategy | Rusty Leonard | Jan. 29, 2010
An indecent grief | First lamentations, then comfort that strengthens more than soothes | Mindy Belz | Jan. 29, 2010
Hope for Haiti? (audio file) | Hear WORLD news editor Jamie Dean discuss her visit to the earthquake-ravaged country | Nick Eicher | Feb. 1, 2010
Despair and salvation | While the UN grapples with unruly crowds, The Salvation Army peacefully distributes food | Jamie Dean | Feb. 2, 2010
Crossing lines | Failing to heed sound advice, 10 Americans now find themselves facing kidnapping charges in Haiti | Jamie Dean | Feb. 4, 2010
Haiti's plight (audio file) | A discussion of the country's days of devastation and moments of deliverance | Jamie Dean | Feb. 5, 2010
Stress management | Helping Haitians recover takes zeal-with wisdom | Jamie Dean | Feb. 12, 2010
Taking charge | In quake aftermath, build new cities, says Haitian ambassador (and Bible translator) Raymond Joseph | Mindy Belz | Feb. 12, 2010
Houses of God | Grand-Goave, Haiti | The Editors | Feb. 12, 2010
Living water | Water Missions International offers long-term solutions for clean, drinkable water | Angela Lu | Feb. 13, 2010
Building blocks | While Christian Aid Ministries provides for the immediate needs of quake victims, it looks ahead to helping the country rebuild | Angela Lu | Feb. 16, 2010
Close quarters | ActionAid helps homeless Haitians deal with sanitation and security issues at camps set up in Port-au-Prince | Angela Lu | Feb. 23, 2010
Hardest hit | With nearly half a million orphaned children before the quake, Haiti's challenge to parent them just got bigger | Jamie Dean | Feb. 26, 2010
The search for miracles | Port-au-Prince is a city desperately seeking turnaround-and that's before the earthquake | Jamie Dean | March 12, 2010
Hope in the darkness | World Hope International offers Haitians practical assistance and spiritual guidance | Angela Lu | March 24, 2010
Night crawlers | A new disaster threatens defenseless women and children in Haitian tent cities: rape | Jamie Dean | March 25, 2010
Homecoming | Missionary Patrick Lataillade, who nearly died in the quake, returned to help Haitians this week | Angela Lu | March 27, 2010
Hashing out Haiti | As the UN makes recovery plans, Haitians struggle for the basic necessities for survival | Jamie Dean | March 31, 2010