Thousands Feared Dead in Haiti Quake; MISERY AND CHAOS FOR RESIDENTS OF CARIBBEAN ISLAND

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), January 13, 2010 | Go to article overview

Thousands Feared Dead in Haiti Quake; MISERY AND CHAOS FOR RESIDENTS OF CARIBBEAN ISLAND


A POWERFUL earthquake struck Haiti's capital with withering force, toppling everything from simple shacks to the ornate National Palace.

The dead and injured lay in the streets even as strong aftershocks rippled through the impoverished Caribbean country.

Journalists based in Port-au-Prince said the damage from the quake - the most powerful to hit Haiti in more than 200 years - was staggering.

Thousands of people gathered in public squares late into the night, singing hymns and weeping.

Many gravely injured people sat in the streets pleading for doctors.

The scope of the disaster remained unclear, and even a rough estimate of the number of casualties was impossible.

But it was clear from a tour of the capital that tens of thousands of people had lost their homes and that many had perished. Many buildings in Haiti are flimsy and dangerous even under normal conditions.

"The hospitals cannot handle all these victims," said Louis-Gerard Gilles, a doctor and former senator, as he helped survivors. "Haiti needs to pray. We all need to pray together."

An Associated Press videographer saw a wrecked hospital where people screamed for help in Petionville, a hillside Port-au-Prince district that is home to many diplomats and wealthy Haitians as well as many poor people.

The headquarters of the 9,000-member Haiti peacekeeping mission and other UN installations were seriously damaged, according to Alain Le Roy, the UN peacekeeping chief in New York.

"Contacts with the UN on the ground have been severely hampered," Mr Le Roy said, a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for." Despite the destruction, the capital was largely peaceful.

The 7.0-magnitude quake struck at 4.53pm on Tuesday and was centred about 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince at a depth of five miles, the US Geological Survey said.

President Rene Preval and his wife survived the earthquake, according to Robert Manuel, Haiti's ambassador to Mexico.

Karel Zelenka, a Roman Catholic Relief Services representative in Portau-Prince, told US colleagues before the phone service failed that "there must be thousands of people dead," according to a spokeswoman for the aid group, Sara Fajardo.

"He reported that it was just total disaster and chaos, that there were clouds of dust surrounding Port-au-Prince," Ms Fajardo said from the group's offices in Maryland. …

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