Havoc! - Strongest earthquake in 200 years cripples Haiti
The United States and France are preparing to dispatch emergency aid to Haiti amid reports that relief efforts were being hampered by major damage to the airport in Port-Au-Prince.
Emergency meetings were held at the State Department, which was having trouble contacting the Haitian government.
"We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"Our prayers are with the people who have suffered."
Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who is the United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti, promised his office was "committed to do whatever we can to assist the people of Haiti".
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said his country was in the process of preparing to send aid.
Collapse of Gov't buildings
Haiti's presidential palace and numerous other government buildings in the country's capital Port-au-Prince collapsed after the quake.
A hospital was also flattened, with reports that patients were buried under the rubble.
Haiti's ambassador to Washington, Raymond Alcide Joseph, told CNN: "My country is facing a major catastrophe."
Surviving at night
Witnesses said that as night fell, survivors were trying to pull people out of piles of concrete and twisted metal.
Joseph Guyler Delva, a Reuters reporter in Port-au-Prince, said he had seen dozens of casualties.
"I saw people under the rubble, and people killed."
A journalist with Haitian television station Haitipal, interviewed by telephone from Port-au-Prince, said public buildings across the capital had been destroyed.
UN headquarters flattened
Reports said the United Nations peacekeeping HQ was also flattened.
The presidential palace, the finance ministry, the ministry of public works, the ministry of communication and culture, were all affected by the quake, the reporter said, adding that the parliament building and a cathedral in the capital were crumbling.
Officials expect massive casualties
Don Blakeman, an analyst at the USGS in Golden, Colorado, said such a strong quake carried the potential for widespread damage.
The earthquake's size and proximity to populated Port-au-Prince likely caused widespread casualties and structural damage, added quake expert Tom Jordan at the University of Southern California.
"It's going to be a real killer," he said.
"Whenever something like this happens, you just hope for the best," he said. "The damage caused by this earthquake is not going to be pretty."
The quake was felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, and some panicked residents in the capital of Santo Domingo fled from their shaking homes. But no major damage was reported there.
In eastern Cuba, houses shook, but there were also no reports of significant damage.
In the community of Thomassin, just outside Port-au-Prince, Alain Denis said neighbours told him the only road to the capital had been cut but that phones were all dead so it was hard to determine the extent of the damage.
Jamaica feels big Haitian quake
Jamaicans living in coastal areas across the island were put on high alert last night after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked neighbouring Haiti hours earlier, triggering a tsunami watch for four Caribbean nations.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding was briefed on the developments by director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Ronald Jackson.
He said the prime minister instructed the agency look at ways in which it could support Haiti.
The Earthquake Unit at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies reported that two aftershocks, measuring magnitude 5.5 and 5.9, were felt in sections of the Corporate Area, St Thomas, St Mary and Portland.
The magnitude 7.0 earthquake was reportedly felt near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince at 4:53 p.m.
This led the Pacific Warning Centre to issue a tsunami watch for Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. It was lifted late last night.