The Red Cross estimates that up to 50,000 people have been killed by the earthquake in Haiti, and some say the total could be as high as 100,000. The United States is sending 5,500 service personnel to help the rescue effort in one of the poorest, most chaotic countries on earth.
The UN had been playing a major role in keeping a semblance of normal life going , and now 150 of its staff are missing after its headquarters in Port-au-Prince collapsed. At the moment, the search for survivors in the city is mainly being carried out by the bare hands of rescuers.
It is 240 years since an earthquake approaching this magnitude hit Haiti. In June 1770, Port-au-Prince was razed to the ground as were a number of villages. At least 200 people died in the quake itself, and up to 30,000 in the chaos that followed.
In 2004, the country was hit by Hurricane Jeanne, which killed 3,000 and caused widespread disruption. Then in 2008, the town of Gonaives was hit by four hurricanes in a month, causing 1,000 deaths, and making a million people homeless.