Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Earthquake

The quake Tuesday flattened much of the capital of 2 million people, wrecking buildings great and small – from shacks in shantytowns to President Rene Preval's gleaming white National Palace, where a dome tilted ominously above the manicured grounds.Hospitals, schools and the main prison collapsed. The capital's Roman Catholic archbishop was killed in his ruined office at the main cathedral. The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission was missing in the ruins of the organization's multistory headquarters.

Several buildings belonging to the archdiocese collapsed, killing at least 100 priests and seminarians, the Vatican said.At a triage center improvised in a hotel parking lot, people with cuts, broken bones and crushed ribs moaned under tent-like covers fashioned from bloody sheets."This is much worse than a hurricane," said Jimitre Coquillon, a doctors assistant. "There's no water. There's nothing. Thirsty people are going to die."

Haiti's leaders struggled to comprehend the extent of the catastrophe – the worst earthquake to hit the country in 200 years – even as aftershocks reverberated."It's incredible," Preval told CNN. "A lot of houses destroyed, hospitals, schools, personal homes. A lot of people in the street dead. ... I'm still looking to understand the magnitude of the event and how to manage."

Preval said thousands of people were probably killed, but it was "too early to give a number."Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive predicted the death toll could reach 100,000.The international Red Cross said a third of the country's 9 million people may need emergency aid, a burden that would test any nation and a crushing catastrophe for impoverished Haiti.

President Barack Obama promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort, and U.S. officials said they were responding with ships, helicopters, transport planes and a 2,000-member Marine unit, as well as civilian emergency teams from across the U.S.
"We have to be there for them in their hour of need," Obama said.

The U.S. Embassy had no confirmed reports of deaths among the estimated 45,000 Americans who live in Haiti, but many were trying to find a way out of the country.
Governments and aid agencies from around the world began marshaling supplies and staffs, but the obstacles proved frustrating just one day after the powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit. Power and phone service were out.

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