100,000 feared dead in Haiti earthquake

MORE than 100,000 people were feared dead last night after a massive earthquake struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti, laying waste to its capital city.

• A woman lies injured in the rubble after the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince was rocked by a devastating earthquake. Picture: Getty Images

The magnitude-7 tremor sparked widespread panic and destroyed most buildings in Port-au-Prince, including the presidential palace, the UN headquarters, thousands of homes and dozens of schools and hospitals.

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Dead bodies were piled in the streets but, with almost no emergency services able to react to the disaster, thousands of injured people were left abandoned and an estimated three million were made homeless.

Late last night, a spokesman for the American Red Cross said the aid organisation had run out of medical supplies.

Countries across the world pledged a massive aid effort, with Britain promising emergency equipment, firefighters and finance.

The United States is sending ships, helicopters, transport planes and a 2,000-strong marine unit. The World Bank also promised an extra $100 million in aid.

Charities launched appeals to raise money to fund rescue efforts, as well as to provide food, water, shelter and medicines for survivors.

The quake, which struck about ten miles south-west of Port-au-Prince, was quickly followed by as many as 30 aftershocks of up to 5.9 in magnitude.

Rescue attempts were severely hampered after power cuts plunged the city into darkness.

Haiti's main prison was among the collapsed buildings in Port-au-Prince, and many surviving inmates escaped into the countryside.

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Prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive said the death toll was likely to be huge.

"I believe we are well over 100,000," he told reporters. Senator Youri Latortue claimed as many as 500,000 could be dead in the city, which has a population of four million.

President Ren Prval called the damage "unimaginable". He described stepping over dead bodies and hearing the cries of those trapped inside the collapsed parliament building.

The senate president was among those pinned under the wreckage.

"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. All of the hospitals are packed with people. It is a catastrophe," he said.

Survivor Valerie Molire, 15, had to be helped out of her family's home by her father. She said: "It was very, very bad. I couldn't even stand up. I was on the floor. My dad had to take me and get me out of the house, that's how bad it was.

"Right now, all I see is people running. They're still running and screaming. All I see is people everywhere hugging and crying.

"I see broken houses and many people are walking in front of me and they have blood all over them."

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Louis-Gerard Gilles, a doctor and former senator, said the hospitals could not handle all the victims. "Haiti needs to pray. We all need to pray together," he said.

Amid the devastation, a Canadian woman who was trapped under rubble appeared to have been rescued after she texted Ottawa for help.

The woman managed to send the text message, which was received by the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa, nearly 1,900 miles away.

Witnesses also told how the sound of singing could be heard above the screams of the injured, as local people in the devoutly Catholic country sang hymns while searching for loved ones.

Troy Livesay, a Christian missionary working in Port-au-Prince, said it was "a beautiful sound in the middle of a horrible tragedy". He also described seeing bodies in the street that had been pulled out of collapsed buildings and people standing around in a state of shock.

Up to 100 UN staff were reported to be missing or dead, while those also killed included at least two Americans, two Australians, eight Chinese and 11 members of a largely Brazilian peacekeeping force. Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, archbishop of Port-au-Prince, also died. Missionaries found his body in the ruins of the archdiocese office.

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said everyone in the collapsed UN building, including mission chief Hedi Annabi, appeared to be dead.

Many residents were forced to abandon the ruins of their homes, and were taking refuge in sports grounds and open spaces in the hours following the quake. Few dared to return indoors, terrified of being buried in one of the huge aftershocks.

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Susan Westwood, a nurse from Stirling working in an orphanage just outside Port-au-Prince, told of the moment the quake struck.

She said: "The wall started to shake and the floors were shaking. Things were falling off of the shelves. We heard glass shattering. It seemed to go on for maybe 40 seconds. It was terrifying.

"We have 85 children in this house at this orphanage, and you can imagine, babies were crying, babies were very upset and the Haitian staff also were terrified. They were hysterical."

Most radio and television stations stopped functioning, with only a few radio appeals for help.


SEVERAL charities have launched appeals in response to the Haiti earthquake.

To make a donation, readers can contact any of the following organisations.

• ActionAid: www.actionaid.org.uk or phone 01460 238000

• Christian Aid: www.christianaid.org.uk/haiti-appeal or 08080 004 004

• Merlin: www.merlin.org.uk or 0207 014 1714

• Oxfam: www.oxfam.org.uk or 0300 200 1999

• British Red Cross: www.redcross.org.uk or 0845 053 5353

• Save the Children: www.savethechildren.org.uk/haiti or 020 7012 6400

• SCIAF: 0141 354 5555 or online at www.sciaf.org.uk


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