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Tens of thousands feared dead in 7.0-magnitude quake

Video by Owen FAIRCLOUGH

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-01-15

Haitian President Rene Preval told CNN that the death toll had already reached between 30,000 and 50,000 after his impoverished nation was struck by a 7.0-magnitude quake on Tuesday.

Haitians woke to face the devastation on Thursday after sleeping outside in the streets and parks, fearful of more aftershocks after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake tore through the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Thursday.

Streets were lined with the bloodied, twisted bodies of the dead and injured after the massive earthquake ripped apart the city, bringing the presidential palace and UN headquarters crashing down and ravaging hillside shanties. 

After another terrifying night rocked by aftershocks, the pitiful cries of those still trapped could be heard from under the cascade of rubble, cement and metal.

quake dls

Haitian President Rene Preval told CNN on Wednesday that the death toll had already reached between 30,000 and 50,000. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said the number of dead could eventually reach "well over 100,000".

The UN alone 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.

Preval confirmed that the head of the UN mission in Haiti, Tunisian national Hedi Annabi, was among the fatalities -- an announcement the UN was unable to corroborate.

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.


Collapsed buildings

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.





Date created : 2010-01-14


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