Haiti disaster: The essential facts
As looters roam the streets of Port-au-Prince armed with machetes and the local price of diesel fuel skyrockets, news about the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti is overloading the airwaves and internet — making it difficult to grasp even basic facts about the devastation. Here, a succinct rundown of what happened, who's been affected and who's helping to make things right.
When did the earthquake occur?
Tuesday, January 12, at 4:53 p.m.
Where exactly did the earthquake hit?
The epicenter of the quake was located 16 miles from Port-au-Prince, the capital of this Caribbean island nation that's roughly the size of Maryland. For a before-and-after look at the extent of the devastation, see these Google Earth satellite images.
How powerful was the quake?
The earthquake measured a 7 on the Richter scale. Each number on the Richter scale represents an exponential increase in the strength of a quake. For instance, a 7-point earthquake is 10 times stronger than a 6-point quake, and 100 times stronger than a 5-point earthquake. For a list of the ten biggest earthquakes in modern history, click here.
What is the death toll?
So far, no one really knows. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is estimating that between 50,000 and 100,000 people have been killed. But General Ken Keen, the head military officer in charge of relief efforts in Haiti, says the total may be closer to 200,000. The Red Cross calculates that 3 million — roughly one-third the country's entire population — have been directly affected by the quake.
What are considered the most significant non-human losses?
In addition to countless homes and businesses lost to the quake, most of Haiti’s major landmarks were destroyed or significantly damaged, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly, and the Port-au-Prince Cathedral (a 1914 structure that took 30 years to build). Other important buildings affected include the country’s main jail and a major hospital.
Countless individuals, organizations and countries around the world have donated money and resources. While the United States government and the World Bank each pledged $100 million, and European Union nations have given $287 million, ordinary Americans have given more than $11 million via a text message donation service. The Red Cross has donated $10 million, as well as tarps, mosquito nets and cooking sets. Former President Bill Clinton is playing a leading role in the relief effort. For a comprehensive list of notable contributors including Ted Turner, George Clooney, Rihanna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt click here.
How you can help: Tips on contributing to the relief fund
Other key Haiti facts:
• Before the quake, Haiti's population totaled just over 9 million people.
• Nearly 40 percent of the country's population is under the age of 14.
• Haiti has one of the world's lowest life expectancy rates (181st out of 190 countries ranked by the CIA World Factsheet). The average Haitian lives only 60 years.
• Diseases such as HIV/AIDS, typhoid fever, malaria and hepatitis are prevalent.
• Eighty percent of the country is Roman Catholic and 16 percent is Protestant; nearly half the population also practices voodoo.
• Approximately half of Haiti's population cannot read or write.
• Haiti ranks as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent of its people living below the poverty line and 54 percent existing in abject poverty.
• Haiti is a democracy, though its history of political instability dates back to the country's declaration of independence in 1804.
(Source: CIA World Factbook)