Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive says that more than 100,000 people may have been killed as a result of Tuesday evening's earthquake which registered 7 on the Richter scale. President René Préval gave a slightly more cautious estimate of between 30,000 and 50,000 dead.
Large parts of the capital Port-au-Prince have been destroyed and the parliament building and the presidential palace have collapsed. Many schools, hospitals and other buildings have also been destroyed.
The headquarters of the United Nations mission in Haiti is in ruins and more than 150 of its staff, including the head of the peace mission Hedi Annabi, are still missing. At least 16 UN peacekeepers from Brazil and Jordan have been confirmed as among the dead.
The widespread chaos means it is difficult to estimate the death toll with any accuracy. Port-au-Prince's Archbishop Serge Miot and the Brazilian child rights activist Zilda Arns have been confirmed as having been killed.
In Port-au-Prince, the international aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières says it is being flooded with injured people. The organisation has set up makeshift tent camps but is barely able to cope with the large number of victims. Many of the injured are seeking medical assistance across the border in the Dominican Republic.
The International Red Cross estimates that about three million Haitian residents have been affected by the disaster. The World Bank has earmarked 69 million euros for emergency aid to Haiti. The United Nations has formed thirty disaster teams, and the UN envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton has created an aid fund for the quake victims. The United States has set up a major aid operation; thousands of soldiers are ready for deployment to Haiti. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates have cancelled their foreign trips to focus on the aid efforts.
Tuesday's quake was also felt in the Dominican Republic, Haiti's neighbour on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. However, the damage in the Dominican Republic is reported not to be so severe. It has pledged to send medical and food aid to Haiti.
Photo 1: Rescue efforts in Port-au-Prince (EPA)
Photo 2: The badly damaged presidential palace (Flickr/Globovision)