People carry an injured person in Port-au-Prince after a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti on Jan. 12. (Radio Tele Ginen/Associated Press)

Damage from Haiti's catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake may be twice the value of the country's annual economy, Latin America's main development bank said Tuesday.

A report by three Inter-American Development Bank economists found last month's earthquake to be more devastating than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was for Indonesia, and five times deadlier than the 1972 earthquake that hit Nicaragua's capital.

"It is the most destructive [natural disaster] a country has ever experienced when measured in terms of the number of people killed as a share of the country's population," killing one in every 50 Haitians, the report said.

Economists Eduardo Cavallo, Andrew Powell and Oscar Becerra estimated the magnitude-seven quake wrought damage worth between $8.1 billion and $13.9 billion US. 

Haiti produced only $7 billion in goods and services in 2008, according to the World Bank.

"This is just an assessment of damage; it gives no indication of the amount of money to get the country back as if nothing had happened," Cavallo told The Associated Press by phone. He said an ongoing assessment will be needed to determine the total amount Haiti needs to rebuild.

The authors used statistical models based on data compiled from about 2,000 natural disasters since 1970, taking into account estimated death tolls, levels of economic development and other factors — and they caution the study is preliminary.

They came up with a wide range of potential estimates, including one as low as $4.1 billion US. But because there are few precedents for a disaster this size — it killed more than 200,000 people and struck directly at the heart of the country's political and economic centre — Cavallo said they believe the final figure will be closer to their highest estimates.