On Tuesday January 12th, at 5 pm local time, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on the Richter Scale, and less than 10 km deep, was recorded off the coast of Haiti, and only 17 km from the capital, Port-au-Prince. Aftershocks have been felt measuring 5.9 and 5.5 respectively. More aftershocks are expected in the coming hours. An earthquake of this magnitude has not hit the region in more than 250 years.
The ambassador of Haiti to the United States has told CNN the earthquake is a "catastrophe of major proportions." International emergency assistance to aid the victims was appealed.
Port-au-Prince has been severely affected including critical services such as, electricity, water and phone lines. Communication appears to be almost impossible at this time, with phone lines down.
Numerous buildings, including the United Nations building, are reported to have been seriously damaged.
Facing this humanitarian catastrophe, TSF has deployed an emergency team from the American base in Managua to provide a vital support in emergency telecoms. They are carrying satellite mobile and fixed telecommunications tools. Reinforcements will also be sent from TSF's international Headquarters. In close contact with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), they are now flying to Saint-Domingue in order to rejoin Port-au-Prince as soon as possible.
At this stage there is very limited access because of debris and other obstacles on the roads. It seems that no communication can be made with the airport either, which is reported to be closed.
Initial reports indicate a widespread devastation, with thousands of casualties and deaths. The situation is worsened by the fact that the affected region is very highly populated (429 people/km2, 2.2 million people). 5.4 million people are potentially affected by the tragedy. Due to the large number of people still missing, a definite number cannot be made.
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and has a population of 9.6 million inhabitants. In recent years the effects of the global food crisis and particularly strong hurricane seasons have left the country very vulnerable.
Since 2003, TSF has deployed 4 times to Haiti to respond to conflicts and natural disasters, of which severe hurricanes Gustav and Hanna, providing communications support both to the humanitarian community and to those affected. This is the 5th deployment in Haiti for TSF.
The mission is supported by the Vodafone Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, Inmarsat, Eutelsat, Vizada, AT&T, Cable and Wireless, PCCW Global, the Communauté d'Agglomération de Pau, and the Conseil Régional d'Aquitaine.