Haiti devastation emerges

The World

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The 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti struck south of the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday. Haiti's president fears the death toll with be up in the thousands.

President Rene Preval said he stepped over dead bodies as he walked through the rubble of Haiti's Parliament building. The Presidential Palace was damaged too, it's top floor and ornamental domes collapsed.

The earthquake has left an estimated 3 million people in need of emergency aid, a Red Cross official said today, as aid groups and governments scrambled to send tons of disaster relief to the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Bob Poff, disaster coordinator for The Salvation Army in Haiti, was driving in his truck when the earthquake struck.

"The truck began to shake violently from side to side, so much so that I thought we were going off the side of the mountain," said Poff. "And I didn't know what was going on.

"And when it stopped, I looked out the window and I saw the buildings pancaking down, one on top of the other."

Poff said he saw people "swarming" out of buildings, dazed and bloody.

Poff left his truck as it was impossible to drive through streets strewn with power lines and rubble from collapsed buildings. "I was walking with thousands of people who were walking around in a daze, not knowing what to do, but getting away from buildings."

When he returned to Salvation Army offices, Poff says it was chaos.

"They brought us children that had been pulled from the debris. They brought us moms and dads that have been pulled from the debris. And we have a small team that is doing the best they can, but they don't have enough supplies ...".

President Obama spoke this morning about the earthquake, saying the Carribean nation has the unwavering support of the United States. He described a coordinated US effort to help rescue survivors and deliver humanitarian relief.

"The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble, and to deliver the humanitarian relief -- the food, water and medicine -- that Haitians will need in the coming days," said President Obama. "In that effort, our government, especially the USAID and the Departments of State and Defense, are working closely together and with our partners in Haiti, the region and around the world."

Haitian Americans in the US are desperate to get news of loved ones in Haiti.

"I haven't heard from my parents," said Jonas Belazare [PH], who works at Radio Energy, a station serving the Haitian community in Boston. "The craziest thing is, we have a house/church/school all together ... four stories, and it's near a ravine. That ravine, they said is gone. Everything next to the ravine sank in."  

Radio Energy has been able to relay information it's been getting via cell phone and Internet radio from Haiti. The station has become news central for Haitians trying to get information about family and friends back home. Station staff have been fielding phone calls for hours.

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More "The World."

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