Latin American countries offer aid to Haiti after quake

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Latin American countries on Tuesday promised humanitarian aid to Haiti soon after the island country was rocked by a strong earthquake that toppled many buildings and buried at least hundreds of people under the rubble.

The headquarters of the UN mission and the presidential palace were among the buildings that were seriously damaged in the 7.0-magnitude quake, the strongest one in Haiti in 200 years.

Shortly after the quake, the Mexican Presidency Office said in a statement that President Felipe Calderon "has ordered the Foreign Ministry to establish the necessary communication with the Haitian government in order to know in detail the needs it is facing and provide the needed help in time."

In Venezuela, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said his country would send "a team of humanitarian aid" to Haiti in the coming hours.

"We have been surprised by this sad news... We have not been able to have direct contact with our ambassador there or with the Haitian authorities," Maduro said. "But immediately we are going to hold a meeting with the business leaders in Haiti."

A special team of 50 people, taking food and medicine with them, will leave for Haiti on Wednesday, Maduro said.

Voicing solidarity with the Haitian people, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he would send a team to repair the electricity system in Haiti.

Honduran President-elect Porfirio Lobo said that "our minds and hearts are with the Haitian people and we pray for them to surpass this difficult moment."

Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Joseph, said the earthquake could bring terrible consequences to the impoverished country.

Joseph called for swift international aid to help the stricken country tide over the difficulties in the aftermath of the quake.

The earthquake struck at about 4:53 p.m. local time (2153 GMT) and was centered 15 km southwest of the capital city with a depth of only 10 km, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said. The quake was followed by a tsunami and at least 13 aftershocks.

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