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Photos, texts begin to tell of destruction in Haiti

  • People in Haiti using social media to help tell of earthquake, aftershocks
  • Online entertainment channel in Haiti becomes vital communications tool
  • People use text messages to contact relatives, friends in earthquake zone

(CNN) -- The faithful prayed -- for relief, for mercy, for safety -- as aftershocks rumbled across Haiti on Tuesday evening.

"It's 8:44 p.m. and we're still getting aftershocks! Can hear people gathered in the distance singing prayers," wrote Richard Morse, hotel manager at the Oloffson Hotel in the capital, Port-au-Prince. On Twitter, he captured the aftermath of a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Haiti, causing widespread destruction.

The quake, which happened shortly before 5 p.m., was followed by at least 18 aftershocks, averaging a magnitude of 5.0, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

As the night went on, the singing and praying intensified and then waned, Morse wrote. What he didn't hear in all the commotion were helicopters or ambulances.

Video: Destruction in Haiti
Video: Witness describes 'severe jolting'
Video: 'I felt the house shaking'
  • Haiti
  • Earthquakes
  • Disaster Relief

The panic that engulfed Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, could be witnessed on an online Haitian entertainment channel called Haitipal, which suddenly became an essential communication tool.

Frantic callers broadcast pleas for help.

"My cousin has a broken leg and she's trying to get to the hospital," one caller said. "She has two kids. ... How can she get to the hospital?"

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The man gave his cousin's address, and the channel's commentator asked anyone listening who lived nearby to see whether he could help.

Many callers expressed their sympathies and prayers for the people of Haiti, while others told of fallen buildings and damaged homes.

The first photographs from the area showed collapsed walls and sidewalks covered with cinder block-size chunks of debris. One photograph, taken by members of a American church mission group, showed a dead man in a gray T-shirt and jeans, hunched on the ground.

Another broadcaster, Radio-Tele Ginen, collected and posted photographs on its Web site that hinted at the damage and deaths caused by the earthquake.

One showed two bodies, completely covered in dust, inside the bed of a pickup. Others showed men and women bloodied by rubble.

The building that houses Citibank's offices in Port-au-Prince, one of the most modern in the city, collapsed, bank spokeswoman Liliana Mejia told CNN.

There were 12 employees unaccounted for after the three-story building fell, she said.

Are you looking for loved ones in Haiti?

Jonathan de la Durantaye was in a car when the quake hit. His initial thought was that a tire had come loose, he told CNN.

Then he noticed that the power lines were moving above, and then a fence or wall next the car started to fall. That was in the northwest part of the city, in an area called Croix des Bouquets.

Appeals for aid after quake strikes

Reports of exactly how widespread the damage was, or how many people had perished, was hard to gather because of limited communication with the island.

Phyllis Bass, an American missionary in Haiti, was able to reach her son-in-law via text message. Using texts, she told of how she saw dead bodies on the road, and how she and four other missionaries were helping the injured.

CNN's Alanne Orjoux contributed to this report.

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