AS many as 100,000 people are thought to have died in the devastating earthquake which shook the capital of Haiti.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter Scale, reduced sections of Port au Prince to rubble and decimated the country’s infrastructure.

Many people are trapped underneath rubble while aid agencies fight to save lives.

The quake, the severest in almost 200 years, hit Port-au-Prince just a half hour before darkness on Tuesday evening.

Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, the archbishop of Port-au-Prince, was among those killed. He was 63.

Rescue efforts in impoverished Haiti were hampered by a lack of light and emergency resources.

Many of the areas razed were merely shantytowns, offering no protection to the 35-second earthquake.

As the international response swings into action, the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday pledged emergency humanitarian aid to the stricken country, but more funds are likely to be provided to agencies such as the Red Cross as the full scale of the damage becomes apparent.

Members of the Irish Rapid Response Corps are also on standby to fly to Haiti and fill a number of positions that may become available in the aftermath of the disaster.

All 18 Irish nationals on the Caribbean country were accounted for last night.

The Digicel communications group, owned by media mogul Denis O’Brien which has a large presence in the region, offered €3.5 million in emergency funding. Two Digicel staff were killed and the company employs 900 people in Haiti.

It is thought up to three million people may have been affected by the quake, which struck just south of the capital city. Two aftershocks, measuring 5.9 and 5.5 in magnitude, compounded the damage.

Among the missing yesterday were a number of United Nations personnel, including the head of the UN mission in Haiti and his deputy. The UN headquarters on the island collapsed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said Ireland would provide whatever help it could in the aftermath of the disaster.

“The Government has already pre-positioned emergency funding with the UN Central Emergency Response Fund for immediate use,” Mr Martin said. “We are ready to commit additional funding as required, and are consulting with the main NGOs on the release of emergency funds.”

Overseas Development Minister Peter Power said: “We have also been in contact this morning with NGOs, including Concern and Goal, to expedite the release of emergency funding for their response.

“In addition, we are ready to make emergency funding available for medical assistance, shelter, food and other support to those whose homes and lives have been devastated by this earthquake.”

Ireland has committed €20m to the UN central emergency response fund.

Michael Carey, chairman of Soul of Haiti, a not-for-profit coalition of Irish businesses here which operate humanitarian projects and support businesses in the country, said the earthquake could wreck Haiti’s drive to escape its impoverished past.

Mr Carey, who is chief executive of Jacob Fruitfield, said: “Our understanding is that the damage done is absolutely horrific – a huge number of buildings have been flattened and many people have been killed.

“My view is that this has set back the process significantly but makes the need for economic development more important.”

In an urgent email from Port-au-Prince, Dr Louise Ivers, the Irish-born clinical director in Haiti of the Partners In Health charity, appealed for assistance from her colleagues in the Central Plateau. “Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS… Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs supplies, pain meds, bandages. Please help us.”

Conor Murphy, an aid worker with Soul of Haiti, who was in the city when the earthquake struck, said many buildings in Port au Prince resembled “a house of cards”.


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