New York, NY (BBN)– United Nation chief on Wednesday issued an urgent call to the international community to assist Haiti following Tuesday’s catastrophic earthquake that has devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation’s capital.

The US Geological Survey reported that a 7.0-magnitude quake struck shortly before 5 p.m. local time on Tuesday, and was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) southwest of the capital Port-au-Prince.

“There is no doubt that we are facing a major humanitarian emergency and that a major relief effort will be required,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York.

Expressing gratitude to nations rushing aid to the earthquake’s victims, he called for the world to “come to Haiti’s aid in this hour of need.”

Buildings and infrastructure in Port-au-Prince suffered extensive damage, while basic services, including water and electricity are near the brink of collapse. The full extent of casualties, which could number in the hundreds, is still unknown, the UN chief added.

“Many people are still trapped inside,” Mr. Ban– who has been in close consultation with the Governments of Haiti, the United States and others – noted.

Troops, mostly from Brazil, serving with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have been working through the night to reach those trapped under the rubble, and several badly injured people have been rescued and transported to the mission’s logistics base which remains intact, a UN press statement said.

Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, told reporters that fewer than 10 UN staff were pulled out of the collapsed Christopher Hotel, with some of them confirmed to have died.

Other UN offices have been damaged, and 10 people are missing from a compound housing people working for the UN Development Program (UNDP), the World Food Program (WFP), the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and others.

The UN chief also announced that he will dispatch Edmond Mulet, his former Special Representative to Haiti and current Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, to the country, and that the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) is releasing $10 million immediately.

“The first priority is search and rescue,” with teams from the US, China, France, the Dominican Republic and other nations on their way to Haiti, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters on the day.

BBN/SS/SI/AD-14January10-1:25 am (BST)