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Between 45,000 and 50,000 people are feared dead and 3 million people may have been injured or lost their homes, the International Federation of the Red Cross reports, from a powerful earthquake and aftershocks that hit the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has urged “all members of the international community to come to Haiti’s aid in this hour need.” Japan and all other nations must do all they can to help the people of Haiti.

In the aftermath of the powerful quakes, Haiti badly needs food, water, medicine and doctors. The World Bank will provide $100 million relief money. The United States has also pledged $100 million. Japan will extend ¥30 million worth of emergency aid supplies and up to $5 million in grants to the country. Some Japanese firms have decided to offer help in the form of money and supplies. Relief teams from many countries including the U.S., China, France and Iceland have arrived but their work faces great obstacles.

Haiti sits on the area where the Caribbean plate and the North American plate meet. A magnitude-7 quake struck at 4:53 p.m. Tuesday local time, followed by a series of aftershocks. The Japanese Meteorological Agency says the initial quake was centered 15 km southwest of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, and only 10 km deep.

Reports said that in Port-au-Prince, with a population of some 2 million, many people were buried in rubble as houses, schools and other buildings collapsed. Lifelines such as water and electricity supply were disabled and most hospitals collapsed. Corpses are left on streets and hygiene conditions are deteriorating. The collapse of law and order is feared.

Haitian President Rene Preval described the damage to his country as “unimaginable.” Thirty-six members of the U.N. peacekeeping operation and other U.N. missions in Haiti died, and some 150 other PKO members are unaccounted for. It may be the highest number of fatalities for a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

The tragedy in Haiti, coming so close to the 15th anniversary of the Kobe earthquake on Jan. 17, is a reminder that disaster can strike at any time. In quake-prone Japan, the central and local governments must ensure they are fully prepared. All people should take their own precautions, such as ensuring the stability of furniture and keeping a store of food and water.

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