Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN the death toll could be "well over 100,000" after his impoverished nation was struck by a 7.0-magnitude quake on Tuesday.
The streets in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince were lined with the bloodied, twisted bodies of the dead and injured Wednesday after a massive earthquake ripped apart the city.
The magnitude-7 earthquake brought the presidential palace and UN headquarters building crashing down, ravaged hillside shanties, and left the impoverished Caribbean nation appealing for international aid.
At daybreak, after a terrifying night rocked by scores of aftershocks, the pitiful cries of those still trapped could be heard from under the tonnes of twisted rubble, cement and metal.
The death toll in the Haiti quake could well reach over 100,000, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN Wednesday.
The UN paid a heavy price, with at least 14 UN staffers confirmed dead in the collapse of the mission's main headquarters in Port-au-Prince. More than 200 UN foreign staff are still unaccounted for.
Haitian President Rene Preval confirmed the head of the UN mission in Haiti, Tunisian national Hedi Annabi, was among the fatalities - an announcement the UN is unable to confirm for the moment.
Preval also said the devastation in Port-au-Prince was “unimaginable”.
"Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed. There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them," Preval told the Miami Herald.
Haiti quake: assessing the devastation
Lacking heavy equipment, Haitians frantically dug with their hands as they sought to pull victims from the ruins of Port-au-Prince, witnesses said. As the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, Haiti is ill-prepared to handle such a catastrophe.
About 1,400 French nationals live in Haiti, including 1,200 in Port-au-Prince. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the embassy was still searching for at least 50 French people who “may have found themselves in very dangerous places”.
Kouchner added that French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet, who is responsible for foreign aid, was scheduled to visit Haiti on Saturday.
The UN reported that the airport in Port-au-Prince airport was operational and that a massive aid operation was underway.
Images from Haïti
Several buildings have collapsed in Port-au-Prince. Thousands are thought to have been killed by the earthquake and many are still trapped under the rubble.
Some 25 aftershocks rocked Haiti. Many of Port-au-Prince's oldest buildings, including the presidential palace, were destroyed in the quake.
A private university, located in Port-au-Prince's Turgeau district, collapsed while students were in the building. According to a university representative, only a few of them have been rescued.
Amidst the chaos, rescue workers struggle to pull people out of the rubble. International relief efforts are underway.
Speaking in Hawaii, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would provide military and civilian disaster assistance to the Caribbean country.
World governments and aid agencies are mobilising emergency rescue teams. The US has sent firemen over to Port-au-Prince, while two plane-loads of rescue staff and humanitarian aid arrived from France.
Help from South America is also on its way. Venezuela sent a 50-member "humanitarian assistance team" to Haiti early Wednesday. Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the team would bring food and medical supplies for stricken Haitians.
The quake, measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale, has devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti. The quakes epicenter was just 16 km (10 miles) from the capital and caused widespread panic when it struck.
The presidential palace: Following the quake, it was seen in ruins, its domes collapsed on to flattened walls.
Hotel Montana: The luxury hotel that attracts tourists and business travellers collapsed; about 100 of its 300 guests have been evacuated. But 200 foreigners remain missing at the Hotel Montana according to French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet.
The headquarters of the UN mission: All those who were in the headquarters of the UN mission when the building collapsed are likely dead, including the head of the UN Haiti Peacekeeper mission, Hedi Annabi of Tunisia. Up to 250 UN foreign staff in Haiti are still unaccounted for.
Main photo credit: LisandroSuero - http://twitpic.com/photos/LisandroSuero
Date created : 2010-01-13