Initial assessments report a large number of casualties and widespread damage with up to five million people adversely affected. The earthquake has brought down buildings including the main hospital. Electricity, water and communications have been cut.
This is a tragedy for Haiti, a country which has experienced a great deal of suffering in recent decades.
Australia is concerned for the welfare of all those affected by the earthquake and is offering immediate assistance to be coordinated with regional and international efforts.
Australia's emergency humanitarian funding will be provided to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations, Australian NGOs and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to supply urgently needed medical assistance, shelter, water and food.
A United Nations Disaster and Assessment Coordination Team (UNDAC) has been mobilised and Australian officials are in contact with the UN assessment team and the CDEMA which is coordinating the response of Caribbean countries.
Australia has recently enhanced and strengthened its relations with the countries of the Caribbean, including Haiti.
In November last year, Australia and the 15 member countries of the Caribbean community (CARICOM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago to enhance Australia's relationship with the Caribbean.
The centrepiece of this MOU is a $60 million development assistance package which includes support to the CDEMA.
If you have concerns for the welfare of Australian family and friends in Haiti, you should first attempt to contact them directly. If you are unable to contact them and still hold concerns for their welfare, you should call the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555135 or (02) 6261 3305.
Mr Smith's office 02 6277 7500
Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555