On this day in 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastates the Caribbean island nation of Haiti. The quake, which was the strongest to strike the region in more than 200 years, left over 200,000 people dead and some 895,000 Haitians homeless.
The earthquake hit southern Haiti at 4:53 p.m. local time. The nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, a densely populated city located about 15 miles from the quake’s epicenter, suffered widespread devastation. Countless dwellings were reduced to rubble, while hospitals, churches and schools collapsed and roads were blocked with debris. Numerous government structures were heavily damaged or destroyed, including the presidential palace, parliament building and main prison. (At the time of the quake, Haiti lacked a national building code, and many structures were shoddily constructed.) In the aftermath of the quake, amidst fears that victims’ decomposing corpses could spread disease, trucks picked up thousands of bodies and dumped them into mass graves.
Governments and individuals around the world made donations and pledges of aid to Haiti totaling billions of dollars. However, on the first-year anniversary of the disaster, reconstruction efforts were still in their infancy. Thousands of people left homeless by the quake were living in tents, and only a small portion of the heavy debris resulting from the disaster had been cleared.