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Early assessment of Haiti quake: Damage centered around Port-au-Prince

Preval Early assessments of damage from Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti suggest that most of it is concentrated around the nation's capital, Port-au-Prince, State Department officials said.

Telecommunications on the island are severely limited, but the U.S. ambassador was able to reach President René Préval and establish that he's safe.

The U.S. Embassy building withstood the earthquake, and it has become a center for medical and other support for Haitians and Americans, State Depeartment officials said in a briefing today. Still, the department has ordered the evacuation of about 80 spouses and children of embassy employees.

As many as 2,000 Marines could soon be headed toward the island, U.S. Southern Commander Gen. Douglas Fraser said. At the moment, “the situation is calm,” Fraser said, but troops would be able to provide aid and potentially respond to security concerns.

At present, the military goals are to secure the airport, restore communications and establish command-and-control centers. They're also keeping an eye on the port, Fraser said, to make sure supplies and assistance can come and go through it.

There are various Coast Guard ships in the region with helicopters aboard to help with airlifts.

-- Christi Parsons in Washington

Haiti photos
Photo gallery: Earthquake hits Haiti | Twitter: Reports from Haiti | Resources: How to help

Top photo: Préval speaks during the 64th General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2009.  Credit: Jason Szenes / European Pressphoto Agency

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