PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Haitians piled bodies along the
devastated streets of their capital Wednesday after a powerful
earthquake crushed thousands of structures, from schools and shacks
to the National Palace and the U.N. peacekeeping headquarters.
Untold numbers were still trapped.
President Rene Preval said he believes thousands of people were
dead from Tuesday afternoon's magnitude-7.0 quake.
"Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed.
Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed," Preval told the
Miami Herald. "There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead
people in them."
The Roman Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince was among the
dead, and the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission was missing.
The international Red Cross said a third of Haiti's 9 million
people may need emergency aid and that it would take a day or two
for a clear picture of the damage to emerge.
President Barack Obama promised an all-out rescue and
humanitarian effort, adding that the U.S. commitment to its
hemispheric neighbor will be unwavering.
"We have to be there for them in their hour of need," Obama
Other nations - from Iceland to Venezuela - said they would
start sending in aid workers and rescue teams. Cuba said its
existing field hospitals in Haiti had already treated hundreds of
victims. The United Nations said Port-au-Prince's main airport was
"fully operational" and open to relief flights.
Aftershocks continued to rattle the capital of 2 million people
as women covered in dust clawed out of debris, wailing. Stunned
people wandered the streets holding hands. Thousands gathered in
public squares to sing hymns.
People pulled bodies from collapsed homes, covering them with
sheets by the side of the road. Passers-by lifted the sheets to see
if loved ones were underneath. Outside a crumbled building, the
bodies of five children and three adults lay in a pile.
The prominent died along with the poor: the body of Archbishop
Joseph Serge Miot, 63, was found in the ruins of his office, said
the Rev. Pierre Le Beller of the Saint Jacques Missionary Center in
Landivisiau, France. He told The Associated Press by telephone that
fellow missionaries in Haiti had told him they found Miot's body.
Preval told the Herald that Haiti's Senate president was among
those trapped alive inside the Parliament building. Much of the
National Palace pancaked on itself.
The international Red Cross and other aid groups announced plans
for major relief operations in the Western Hemisphere's poorest
Many will have to help their own staff as well as stricken
Haitians. Taiwan said its embassy was destroyed and the ambassador
hospitalized. Spain said its embassy was badly damaged.
Tens of thousands of people lost their homes as buildings that
were flimsy and dangerous even under normal conditions collapsed.
Nobody offered an estimate of the dead, but the numbers were
"The hospitals cannot handle all these victims," said Dr.
Louis-Gerard Gilles. "Haiti needs to pray. We all need to pray
An American aid worker was trapped for about 10 hours under the
rubble of her mission house before she was rescued by her husband,
who told CBS' "Early Show" that he drove 100 miles (160
kilometers) to Port-au-Prince to find her. Frank Thorp said he dug
for more than an hour to free his wife, Jillian, and a co-worker,
from under about a foot of concrete.
An estimated 40,000-45,000 Americans live in Haiti, and the U.S.
Embassy had no confirmed reports of deaths among its citizens. All
but one American employed by the embassy have been accounted for,
State Department officials said.
Even relatively wealthy neighborhoods were devastated.
The quake struck at 4:53 p.m., centered 10 miles (15 kilometers)
west of Port-au-Prince at a depth of only 5 miles (8 kilometers),
the U.S. Geological Survey said. USGS geophysicist Kristin Marano
called it the strongest earthquake since 1770 in what is now Haiti.
Most Haitians are desperately poor, and after years of political
instability the country has no real construction standards. In
November 2008, following the collapse of a school in Petionville,
the mayor of Port-au-Prince estimated about 60 percent of buildings
were shoddily built and unsafe normally.
The quake was felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares the
island of Hispaniola with Haiti, and in eastern Cuba, but no major
damage was reported in either place.
With electricity out in many places and phone service erratic,
it was nearly impossible for Haitian or foreign officials to get
full details of the devastation.
"Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken,"
said Henry Bahn, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official in
Port-au-Prince. "The sky is just gray with dust."
If you have family members in Haiti that you're trying to contact, the US State Department has set up a toll free hotline, 1-888-407-4747.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)