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Haiti earthquake with 7.2 magnitude

This earthquake is stronger than the 2010 earthquake that left one million homeless.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A strong, shallow earthquake occurred in Haiti Saturday morning just before 8:30 a.m. The preliminary magnitude is 7.2, stronger than the 2010 deadly earthquake.

Credit: WXIA

For reference, this earthquake is further away from the capital city of Port Au Prince than the 2010 earthquake. 

Credit: WXIA

This earthquake was only 6 km in-depth, very close to the surface. Shallow depth earthquakes can be much more destructive and damaging than deep earthquakes. This is because the seismic waves don't have to travel as far to the surface, so much of the shaking can be more intense and immediate.

RELATED: Scientists: Haiti, DR brace for future big quakes

The US Geological Survey has a "PAGER" system that analyzes earthquakes and puts out estimates of potential loss and fatalities. For this Haiti earthquake, they say there is a "red alert for shaking-related fatalities. High casualties are probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response."  Their early estimates suggest that there could be at least 1,000 related earthquake fatalities. It is just an estimate.

Credit: USGS

Haiti is located in between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates and can be vulnerable to earthquakes like the nearby Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

RELATED: Here's how plate tectonics caused Puerto Rico's recent earthquakes