The strongest aftershock to date hit Haiti early Wednesday morning (January 20), rattling nerves and sparking fears of renewed damage and casualties one week after the island was devastated by a 7.0 temblor. According to CNN, the 6.1-magnitude aftershock, which struck just after 6 a.m. ET, was located about 6.2 miles deep, with an epicenter about 35 miles west-southwest of the decimated capital of Port-au-Prince. It was the latest in a series of dozens of aftershocks that have hit since the January 12 quake that destroyed much of the capital and took at least 72,000 lives.
In addition to causing panic and distress among the more than 3 million survivors who have been battling to stay alive in dire conditions amid the rubble of the original earthquake, such a strong aftershock can pose serious danger in an area where damaged buildings are already teetering precariously, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Alison Smith, a medical student at Tulane University who has been posting frequent reports from Haiti on the MTV Newsroom blog, provided a firsthand account of the aftershock.
"We heard gunshots and screaming all throughout the night," she wrote early Wednesday morning. "Then, we were awoken to a 6.1 earthquake this morning. The whole restaurant we are staying in shook, and there were huge waves in the pool. Everyone went running outside. We are not sure if there is damage in Port-au-Prince, as we are staying a little bit up the mountain from the center of the city."
A colleague of Smith's, third-year Tulane medical student Josh Denson, 25, also sent in a report on the aftershock, describing the chaotic scene in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation. "I just woke up today, [after] sleeping on the concrete by this pool at some hotel, to either an aftershock or an earthquake," he wrote. "The pool water was moving back and forth, and the people were yelling a bit."
CNN described a scene in which patients at a hospital near the airport in Port-au-Prince began immediately praying for forgiveness and protection as the ground rocked back and forth.
At least one injury was reported in the moments following the aftershock, which came as desperately needed medical reinforcements approached offshore in the form the USNS Comfort, a state-of-the-art hospital aboard a U.S. naval ship. U.S. helicopters will fly patients to the Comfort for treatment to relieve some of the pressure on overburdened hospitals and clinics. The ship carries nearly 550 doctors, nurses, technicians and support staff, who will be joined by 350 other medical personnel once the ship reaches Haiti.
As of Wednesday, 3 million Haitians were still in need of food, water, shelter and medical assistance, according to a United Nations estimate. More than $220 million has been contributed to major U.S. relief groups to date. (Here is a list of the ways you can contribute to Haitian relief.)
Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Wyclef Jean, Bono, the Edge and Jay-Z will lead the all-star lineup of performers for Friday night's "Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief" telethon, sponsored by MTV Networks. More than 100 stars have signed on to help raise funds for the show, which will air commercial-free across ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, BET, the CW, HBO, MTV, VH1, CMT and dozens of other networks on Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Learn more about what you can do to help with earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti, and for more information, see Think MTV. Join George Clooney and Wyclef Jean for MTV's "Hope for Haiti" telethon, airing commercial-free Friday, January 22, at 8 p.m. ET.