Survivors of Haiti’s earthquake describe destruction everywhere they look and fears for people trapped beneath the rubble.
CNN iReporter Carel Pedre was driving when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday evening. Suddenly debris blocked the road, and he got a sense of the devastation when he started walking.
“I heard a lot of people praying, saying that Jesus is coming, saying that we need to pray, we need to save our lives by believing in God,” Pedre told CNN.
He saw collapsed buildings every few feet, he said. And people — mainly children — with head injuries.
People thought it was the end of the world, he said.
Travel agent Jacqualine Labrom said some people were in a “state of hysteria,” perhaps because they had never seen an earthquakeof this magnitude in their lives.
A local hospital brought patients outside and laid them on the ground, Labrom said.
“A popular church had completely collapsed, having folded in on itself and other houses and walls were down,” Labrom told CNN by email. “People were wailing and crying and didn’t know what to do. They said that although there had not been a service there were some people inside the church praying or having a meeting and they were sure that if they hadn’t already died they were seriously injured.”
Pictures from Haiti showed broken and flattened concrete buildings. People in the streets were dusty from the concrete and bloody from their injuries.
“One woman, I could only see her head and the rest of her body was trapped under a block wall,” said CNN iReporter Jonathan de la Durantaye, who drove through the capital of Port-au-Prince after the quake. “I think she was dead. She had blood coming out of her eyes and nose and ears.”
The earthquake sent a cloud of dust over Port-au-Prince. Beneath it, people were screaming, running out of buildings, tending to victims and calling for help.
“What I can hear is very distressed people all around in the neighborhoods that we are in,” said Ian Rogers of the charity Save the Children. “There is a lot of distress and wailing of people trying to find the loved ones who are trapped under buildings and rubble.”
Dust tipped off one man in Port-au-Prince to the devastation that lay outside his door, said Gregory von Schoyck of the Haitian-American Friendship Foundation.
“He is a missionary pilot, and he wrote to say that his refrigerator walked across the room about 4 feet and his dishes rattled a lot,” von Schoyck told CNN from a town just northeast of Port-au-Prince. “But when he went outside, he said the air was full of dust, and he said that could only mean one thing, that a lot of buildings must have gone down.”
Von Schoyck said he felt the pitching of the ground and even his sturdy stone house “was groaning and moaning a little bit” during the quake.
At God’s Littlest Angels orphanage, on the mountainside above Port-au-Prince, children and staff slept outside Tuesday, enduring aftershocks well into the night.
The earthquake “knocked down people, kids, the food off the stove for supper, all of my glassware out of the cabinet,” Dixie Bickel, who runs the orphanage, wrote on its Web site. “The children are sleeping outside in the drive. Even our little babies are outside tonight!”
Haitians fear that survivors stuck inside collapsed buildings may soon become victims. Pedre said Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, is not equipped to rescue those trapped in one building, let alone hundreds.
When a single school collapsed in November 2008, all 150 people were trapped inside and died because authorities lacked the proper equipment to rescue them, Pedre said. He questioned how the country could deal with this large-scale disaster.
“That was one school in 2008. Now it’s every step, you have a big building that collapsed,” he said. “There are a lot of people under those buildings still living, still breathing, but no response to help them get out of where they are.”
Clay Cook told CNN that his daughter, who works at a mission in Haiti, was briefly trapped at home after the quake. Three staff workers and her husband managed to free her from the concrete, he said.
Cook called the rescue “heroic.” His son-in-law drove eight hours through the night to free her, he said.
For many, just getting to the capital is a challenge, said Rev. Louis St. Germain of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Les Cayes, on Haiti’s southern coast.
“At the moment we have no way to contact Port-au-Prince,” he said. “The only way we can go to Port-au-Prince is by car or by motorbike, but when you reach Port-au-Prince you have to leave it because the streets are really impassable.”