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Major Earthquake Devastates Haiti

Aired January 13, 2010 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news from Haiti coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM: staggering destruction and desperation. Almost 24 hours after a massive earthquake, the prime minister tells CNN hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti may -- repeat -- may be dead. You heard that number right. He says hundreds of thousands. It's too soon to know, but the number is staggering.

Most of the capital city of Port-au-Prince is destroyed, building after building after building flattened, including the presidential palace. People are clawing through rubble with their bare hands, trying to reach loved ones who are trapped.

Just a little while ago, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta had a chance to speak with the president of Haiti, his first on-camera interview since the quake hit.

Here's Dr. Gupta's interview in Port-au-Prince with the president of Haiti.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What are you doing here at the airport?


GUPTA: So, you don't have a home?

PREVAL: So, I came here to (INAUDIBLE) but they told me that I cannot (INAUDIBLE) here because it is not safe. So, I'm going home.

GUPTA: You're going to go back to your home?

PREVAL: Are you able to live in the palace, or is it completely destroyed?

PREVAL: I cannot live in the palace. I cannot live in my own house, because the two collapsed.

GUPTA: Where are you going to go tonight?

PREVAL: I don't know.

GUPTA: It is striking. The president of this country doesn't know where he's going to sleep tonight.

PREVAL: No. I have plenty of time to look for a bed, but now I am working how to rescue the people. But sleeping is not a problem.


BLITZER: We're going to have more of Dr. Gupta's interview with the president of Haiti, Rene Preval. That's coming up.

But Gary Tuchman is joining us now. He's in Haiti on the ground.

Gary, tell our viewers what you have seen and heard since you got there just a few hours ago.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is just an unbelievable catastrophe.

Up and down the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince, where I am right now, there is not one building, not one structure, not one house, not one business that hasn't been either heavily damaged or destroyed. But more disturbing, when you go up many of the streets, there are bodies lying on the sides of the streets.

The bodies have been paid some respect. What people are doing as they pass them by is, they're putting sheets over them. However, there are absolutely no police, fire, emergency authorities on the scene, as the search for survivors continues. It's kind of like chaos and anarchy, Wolf, not that people are misbehaving, but you have common citizens who are digging through tons of rubble without any emergency officials and without any tools whatsoever, frantically.

I mean, there are tons of rubble. They couldn't hope to lift them up, but they're still trying. Strong men are banding together trying to lift up rocks where they think there might be survivors. What they do is, they look for flies and they look for flies flying over certain areas where they think they may detect human remains.

And we were with them while they were doing that. And, indeed they found human remains. It was someone who had passed away. So, it's a very sad (AUDIO GAP). You see wheelbarrows, truckfulls of bodies. It's very disturbing. It's one of the most disturbing things I have seen in my journalistic career, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are you still hearing people still crying out, wailing, if you will, for help, people who are trapped in these buildings?

TUCHMAN: Yes, not -- we don't hear people wailing in buildings.

What we do is, we hear people wailing who are looking for people in the buildings. We were just in a school a short time ago, a kindergarten school that doubles as a school for adult education at night. And we see bodies in the rubble, and we see a 27-year-old woman, a mother screaming for her child who's missing.

So, it's just so desperately sad. And (AUDIO GAP) there really is nobody. It's just chaotic and one of the (AUDIO GAP)

BLITZER: I think our signal is coming in and out with Gary Tuchman. He's on the scene for us in Port-au-Prince right now, a devastating report from Gary Tuchman.

We have Anderson Cooper on the scene. Sanjay Gupta is there, Chris Lawrence, Ivan Watson, Jonathan Mann. We have a whole team of reporters there. We're going to be checking in with all of them throughout these hours in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But joining us now is the ambassador of Haiti to the United States, Ambassador Raymond Joseph.

A devastating report, you just heard that, Mr. Ambassador. I know you have been on the phone with officials in your government. We heard the president of Haiti, Rene Preval, tell Sanjay Gupta just moments ago he doesn't know where he's going to sleep tonight.

Tell our viewers what you're hearing from back home.

RAYMOND ALCIDE JOSEPH, HAITIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: What I'm hearing is that this is the worst catastrophe that the people in my country have lived through -- well, they don't remember until when.

We had four hurricanes in 2008, and people thought that was awful, but, for the first time, we are hearing that the death toll or the missing might go over 100,000.

BLITZER: Now, let's be precise, over 100,000, because we heard your prime minister tell CNN earlier in the day he feared hundreds of thousands may be dead. Then, he later clarified, said more than 100,000.

JOSEPH: more than 100,000.

BLITZER: But you are saying, based on everything you're hearing from authorities on the ground in Haiti...


BLITZER: ... that more than 100,000 people are feared dead?

JOSEPH: Dead or missing.

BLITZER: Dead or missing? You're not including injured?

JOSEPH: Well, the injured they have found, but there are others that they don't know where they are. And, well, we have to say they're missing until they're found.

You know, it is something that gnawed at my heart, gnawed at my -- my inward, because, back in 2004, when I flew into Haiti after a 13-year absence, coming in on American Airlines, look out the windows, and I had tears in my eyes, although I'm not a very emotional person, because I saw a bunch of new blocks like matchboxes over -- dotting the hills running Port-au-Prince that I did not know before, 13 years earlier.

And when I got down on the ground, I went to observe, and these were tinderbox houses. And I wrote a column for the defunct "New York Sun" in April 2004, and I said Port-au-Prince is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

BLITZER: Did you know, personally, how dangerous an earthquake could be, that there was this fault line running through the Caribbean right through your country?

JOSEPH: I was not thinking about an earthquake.

BLITZER: An earthquake, an earthquake.

JOSEPH: I was thinking about an avalanche, a hurricane that would come in and wash these little houses off the sides of the hills of Port-au-Prince.

So, when I hear that about 100,000 may be dead or unaccounted for, I don't think it's exaggerated. Port-au-Prince was a city that was built for about 50,000, and, today, we have two million. There's no infrastructure for that. And the houses, what you call houses, are flimsy little abodes.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Mr. Ambassador, because this earthquake is causing enormous pain, obviously, in Haiti. But, around the world, people want to help. And I want to ask you if the U.S. government, other governments are helping in this situation, if they're doing what needs to be done.

The ambassador from Haiti, Raymond Joseph, he's going to stay with us.

We're going back to Port-au-Prince. We will speak with our reporters who are on the scene. We're standing by. Sanjay Gupta is there, Anderson Cooper, Susan Candiotti.

Stay with us. Our breaking news coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM continues after this.


BLITZER: We just heard from the ambassador of Haiti to the United States that more than 100,000 people in Haiti are now feared either dead or missing as a result of this earthquake that rocked Haiti almost 24 hours ago -- more than 100,000 people. We heard the same thing from the prime minister of Haiti just a few hours ago.

Susan Candiotti is now on the scene for us and just a little while ago filed this report.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Over my shoulder, you will see some of the thousands of -- of homes that are built into the side of the mountains here that these ones that you see over my shoulder, incredibly, were not impacted by the earthquake.

But as we flew from the Dominican Republic, from Santo Domingo into Port-au-Prince, we began to see right away some of the devastation caused by this earthquake. And we saw, for one thing, a lot of homes that were imploded. It looked as though they had been imploded.

And then, when we finally set down our helicopter at the airport here, we saw cracks in the airport. We saw people teeming outside, lined up, but, patiently, without causing any problem, waiting to see whether they could get a commercial flight out.

There was no way that was going to happen. But the real impact was when we started to drive through the streets of Port-au-Prince, in particular, one of the neighborhoods called Delmas, where our driver told us, you are going to see a lot of death here.

And, in fact, that's exactly what we saw. As we drove block after block, we saw one first body, then two bodies, then three, then four at a time, then five lined up block after block after block, each of these covered by sheets.

And then, in an almost chilling scene, you would see people in some instances sitting nearby, some of them with vacant stares in their eyes just sitting in the middle of the street. At times, you would see young children walking about, as though seeing this horror didn't bother them.

And you had to wonder, is that because this country has suffered so much and through so many natural disasters over so many years? But you also saw a sense of people trying to help each other. For example, as we drove up a major thoroughfare teeming with people, you saw people walking down the middle of the street using a makeshift gurney, with someone who was injured, one of the earthquake victims, on top.

And you saw collapsed buildings one right after the other pancaked down, both homes and businesses, for example, a gas station that had crumbled.

We also were able to witness one gas station, incredibly, that was open and had gas. And you can imagine what those lines looked like. But this is a country that has suffered yet another blow, almost three million people in the city of Port-au-Prince, the capital city, major damage to the national palace.

We have not yet been to any of the hospitals yet, but, again, we have heard some of the estimates of numbers of dead. And we can only begin to imagine how those numbers will actually add up in the end after seeing just what we did over the course of just a few hours.

The downtown area has suffered a lot of damage, and some of the other buildings and homes, obviously, up into the hills, but then you will also see off in the distance areas that seem untouched.

As we flew in on the outskirts, we didn't see a lot of damage, but we saw several buildings that had been damaged. So, how widespread it is, is hard to say on the outskirts, but in the city -- and we have just begun to look around -- it is terrible. It is just terrible and it is heartbreaking to see.


BLITZER: Susan Candiotti just moments ago reporting from Port- au-Prince. She's there.

Chris Lawrence is there as well. Our Pentagon correspondent has made his way to Port-au-Prince.

Chris Lawrence, I'm here with Haiti's ambassador in Washington. We're going to talk to you, but tell us what you're seeing right now, as nightfall approaches.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're here at the Port-au-Prince airport here in Haiti, and you can see just a tremendous amount of crowds, everyone crowding around the entrance to the airport, everyone desperate really for information. Nobody knows what's going on.

People have told us they have heard no word from the -- from their embassies, trying to figure out when they may be able to get a flight out of here. And many of them don't have anything left.

You know, Norm Clark (ph) here is from -- from Florida.

You had just an incredible story, Norm, about how you got out of the earthquake and what you were trying to do with a lot of the kids you were with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we were trying to help the Operation Love the Children for Haiti.

And I was upstairs on the second floor, and, then, all of a sudden, everything started trembling. And we went running downstairs, and the kids were all downstairs. And we just starting grabbing them by the armfuls and throwing them out of the way of the house itself, and running back in, and kept getting more, until they all got out.

And nobody was hurt, not one person. Every house around us collapsed to the ground. And we just give praise to God for protecting us.

And it's devastating now to be here. We slept last night on the ground, and there was probably 50, 60 tremors all night long. And some of them were very bad. So, all the babies were crying. And it was a very scary experience, but...

LAWRENCE: And, right now, you don't -- do you have any idea when you're going to get out of here?

JOSEPH: We have no place to sleep. We slept on the ground last night. And we're trying to get out of here. We -- told us that our ambassador was supposed to have been here at 2:00. And it's 4:20. And he still isn't here. And there's no food or water here for the people. And there's a lot of people that's hurting, not as bad as the Haitian people are, but, still, we would like some kind of representation to help us get back home to our country.

And, so, if somebody could get him here, we would appreciate it.

LAWRENCE: All right, yes, a plea right there, Wolf, for the ambassador or someone from the State Department to get some information out about when maybe people might get out.

I just want to show you exactly what -- what he's kind of talking about. If you look down there, you can see just people camped out. There are people literally from all over, as we take you through here, a lot of people from Haiti who are trying to get out, trying to get out of the country.

Some of them have said their homes were completely destroyed. Others have told us that, even though their homes weren't completely destroyed, the foundation is so unstable, they have nowhere else to go. A lot of people have just started to -- to just camp out here on the ground.

And, again, I think he made a great point by saying, no one is bringing at this point any food or water down here. You know, you could see a situation where very shortly that could become a major, major problem, as people are just out here, exposed to the elements, with nothing to eat, nothing to drink.

So, again, I think there is a -- going to be, perhaps not a dire need right at this hour, but I think, in the next 12 hours, you're going to see an even greater need for some sort of relief supplies to start to get brought in here for people who have nowhere else to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris, hold on for a second, because the ambassador of Haiti in the United States is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me right now, Ambassador Raymond Joseph.

When will those supplies, based on what you're hearing from the State Department, from your own government back Port-au-Prince, when will those aircraft start coming in to Haiti with water and food and medical supplies?

JOSEPH: Based on a meeting I had this morning at the State Department, there is some relief will be reaching Port-au-Prince. Perhaps, by now, they have some -- some relief getting there.

BLITZER: The planes will be able to land at that main airport in Port-au-Prince?

JOSEPH: Yes, because the Department of Defense is coming in with an emergency tower, a control tower, because the control tower fell. So, they're coming in with an emergency control tower.

But, even without that, some planes have landed. The Dominicans came in this morning.

BLITZER: And they brought some of our own CNN reporters and producers and technical people in with them from the Dominican Republic.


BLITZER: I want to go back to Chris Lawrence.

Chris, you can -- you can assure those folks around you at the airport, we just heard from the ambassador, the U.S. government, the State Department, the Pentagon, where you normally work, they have assured the ambassador that the supplies will start arriving at the airport fairly soon, maybe even within the coming hours, which is obviously very, very important and good news, because people will be hungry. They will be thirsty. They will need supplies.

Tell our viewers, Chris, what else you have seen there in these few hours that you have been there.

LAWRENCE: Wolf, I think I got my first taste of it, Wolf, as we were flying in from Santo Domingo from the Dominican Republic.

And as we started to come over Port-au-Prince, the young woman from Haiti who was sitting next to me just started crying hysterically as we started flying over. And you could just see that complete buildings were simply flattened, I mean, completely flattened to the ground.

She went on to say that her mom was here. Her mom may have been trapped in a building. She had no way to contact her. And I think that's another big point. You know, as you look at people just here, they have no way to get word out to a lot of their family members, which is extremely frustrating.

She said, I'm coming here, but I have no idea what's happened to my mom. I can't get a hold of her.

She estimated that her house was about, you know, maybe 15 miles away, and they planned to just, as soon as they landed, to immediately just start walking to try to get out there as quickly as possible.

I also had a chance to drive around certain areas of the city. I will say this. I did see certain areas that looked fairly normal, where it looked some sort of normal life was still continuing. And then you would see other buildings where an entire house just completely collapsed on itself.

At one point, at one of the homes, you -- I could see a woman's arm where -- where she had clearly been trapped under her home during that earthquake. I saw a business that had completely just tipped over, a three-story building tipped over on its side. Some of the people who were out there said about three people died in that.

So, again, I think one of the big things will be trying to go out and determine, without a lot of communication, exactly who was in some of these buildings at the time the earthquake hit.

As we were walked around and as we were able to talk to folks, a lot of them, Wolf, were able to tell us: We were at the hospital. We were working with children. When the earthquake hit, it destroyed our hotel. If we had been in our hotel, there's no way we would have survived.

But, again, they were at a different building. So, I think that will be a big thing, to try to go around and see exactly who was in these buildings when the earthquake hit, and then hopefully trying to get more and more communication online, so it's easier to get that information out to people all over the city -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris, I just want to alert our viewers -- stand by for a moment -- we now have more resources, CNN, on the ground in Haiti than any news organization. This is one of the first live reports that anyone is seeing from Haiti. CNN is really devoting enormous amount of energy and resources to getting you the information you need.

This is a tragedy that's unfolding. We heard the ambassador say just a few moments ago more than 100,000 people, he fears, are either missing or dead already.

Mr. Ambassador, I know you have tried to stay in touch with authorities in Port-au-Prince.

You have a chance to speak to Chris Lawrence, our Pentagon correspondent, who's there right now. Is there anything you want to ask him as far -- that could help you in making sure the people of Haiti get the supplies they need?

JOSEPH: The one thing I would like to ask, is there a way of moving about in the city? Are the streets cleared enough for you to move about?

Because, in talking with some officials, they told me, the thing they had to do is to leave their car parked someplace and walk for miles, because there was no way of walking the or driving in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Are the streets driveable right now?

BLITZER: Go ahead, Chris.

LAWRENCE: Wolf, someone from our control room was talking while -- while he was talking. Can you -- can you please repeat exactly what he said there at the end about his biggest question?

BLITZER: He wants -- he wants to -- he wants to know, Chris, assuming the supplies can get to the airport or to a port, are the streets usable? Can people drive trucks to deliver supplies around Port-au-Prince?

Because authorities here in Washington have told the ambassador that, even once the supplies get there in large quantities, it's not going to be easy moving those supplies out around this city of two million people, Port-au-Prince, to make sure the supplies get to those who need them. He wants to know if the streets are driveable.

LAWRENCE: You know, we were out earlier. I think the big question from the ambassador was, do you feel like the streets are driveable, if the trucks start coming with some of the relief supplies and food and water? How would you describe the roads out there, able to get through?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know exactly. There's a lot of people that need (INAUDIBLE) It's very difficult to find people because they are on the -- a lot of walls. I don't exactly -- or we can do that. Maybe we can try to describe with a lot of people to give food or to give water to those people. And then they have got to come with other person to try to get those people out of the wall and under the wall.


I know, just when we were trying to drive around, Wolf, and just trying to find gas, all of the gas stations were completely closed. We had to go, you know, into an actual neighborhood, and basically, you know, buy it from somebody's home.

So, that gives you an idea of just how hard it will be, you know, if they don't start opening up some of the fuel centers, you know, not only the roads, the conditions of the roads, but having enough gas to actually get around the city and get to all of these different areas that are really going to need the help.

Oh, wow. We just felt that.


LAWRENCE: Yes, you felt that?


LAWRENCE: Yes, I think everybody here just -- just really felt one of the aftershocks. Yes, you can still feel it a little bit, too.

Well, I have to say that's probably one of the first aftershocks we have felt here in quite some time since we have been here. One of the people we spoke with said, you know, he felt last night he could feel the shaking all night long after all these aftershocks.

And, Wolf, I can tell you, having lived in California for so long, and having gone through a lot of earthquakes, both small earthquakes and larger earthquakes, sometimes, those aftershocks can be, you know, just a dangerous or just as scary as the actual earthquake itself, depending on where you were. And I can tell you, just a few seconds ago, we definitely felt the entire ground rumble right through here.

BLITZER: It's very scary stuff, these aftershocks from the earthquake. It's been going on now for 24 hours. In fact, we're approaching now the end of the first 24 hours.

What a -- what a tragic situation unfolding.

Mr. Ambassador, do you have another question you want to ask Chris Lawrence? It's your opportunity to pin him down on something that you need, information you need that -- from the scene, because I know you're having trouble getting through to your own government.

JOSEPH: The other question to you, have you been able to speak to government people? Do you have phone? Did they provide you some telephone at the airport? Because that's the way it is. When you arrive in Port-au-Prince, right away at the airport, you can get some local phones. Have you been able to get some local conversation going?

BLITZER: All right, let's see if we -- I think we may have lost a connection with Chris.

I don't know if you heard that question, Chris. If you didn't, he wants to know if people can get access to cell phone service at the airport if they arrive. I guess he's specifically interested in how you guys, all of our CNN team members that are there on the ground, how you -- you manage to communicate with us and the rest of the world.

LAWRENCE: Well, it's through, you know, this really fancy elaborate setup. We can't just get on our cell phones and call.

And I -- I would say most of the people here -- anybody have cell service, cell phones?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: None whatsoever since yesterday. It's crazy. It's ridiculous.

However, the people of Haiti are -- us Haitians, we're united in order to help out. We are in the middle of a crisis. Right now, we are in a state of emergency. And we need help. But the unity that the Haitians have right now, it's incredible.


LAWRENCE: ... beyond belief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's beyond belief.

LAWRENCE: Beyond belief, right, because we haven't seen any -- we haven't seen a lot -- I have been driving around here. You know, we haven't seen a lot of people being unruly. We have seen, for the most, people really pitching in, helping.

It seems rather calm in Port-au-Prince right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) that sell the waters and the drinks, they give it to the people. And the taxi drivers, they don't have the people pay. What they do is they take the people that -- the victims, take them to the hospital free of charge. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the police is wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, they really have (INAUDIBLE) efforts. Now we're working together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like I say, this is beyond politics. This is reality. This is Mother Nature talking, and everybody is together.

LAWRENCE: Thank you very much.

Well, you heard -- I'm sure the ambassador will be happy to hear that. I mean, people who are telling us basically that they are very happy with the way some government officials seem to have responded to this crisis. And not only government officials, but everyday people in Haiti, people pitching in.

And I've got to tell you, I mean, just in driving around, you definitely see that in some of the neighborhoods, you know, families starting to pitch in. We saw this one truck that had pulled up and it had water. And a lot of people were coming up with little plastic jugs to scoop the water out, to take the water back home to their own families.

So, again, you know, it's hard to say if that will last, if that's the case in every part of this city. It's a huge city, but it is a small slice, a piece of the bigger story that we've been able to see -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's encouraging, to hear how folks in Haiti are rallying around, they're working together, they're cooperating.

Mr. Ambassador, are you surprised to hear that report from Chris?

JOSEPH: No, I'm not at all surprised. There is something that has happened in Haiti in the past four years that I think the outside world has not understood.

When President Preval was elected with about 51 percent of the vote, he turned around and he said, "Forty-nine percent didn't vote for me." And he opened his arms to the 49 percent and chose some of his cabinet ministers from among them.

This is unheard of in modern Haitian history. And so, now, by having a government of consensus, you started to have everybody feeling that they have a stake in what's happening, and that has brought political stability to the country.

BLITZER: All right.

Mr. Ambassador, I'm going to have you stand by, if you don't mind. If you have to leave, you'll let me know.

The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, is now speaking at the United Nations. He's a special envoy for Haiti, and he's making some comments. We're going to have that for our viewers. That's coming up.

We're going to go back to Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti.

You just heard Chris Lawrence, Susan Candiotti, Gary Tuchman. Anderson Cooper is on the scene for us. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is there, Jonathan Mann. We've got a whole tame.

CNN is devoting an enormous amount of energy and resources to bring you the most comprehensive information you need to know on what's going on in Haiti, where it's now feared, according to Haitian authorities, including the ambassador here in Washington and the prime minister of Haiti, more than 100 those people may be dead.

Our coverage continues in THE SITUATION ROOM after this.


BLITZER: The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, is at the United Nations right now. He's a special U.N. envoy for Haiti. And just a few moments ago, this is what he said.


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... working in heartbreaking circumstances like this for three decades now. What we need now is food, water, supplies for first aid and shelter.

We have got to find out who's alive. We have to care for the people who are dead, and to try to preserve them so their loved ones can identify them. And that has to be done by people on the ground. I have great confidence in...


BLITZER: All right. We're going to get more from Bill Clinton, the former president, shortly, but I want to get to Chad Myers right away.

Chad, we just heard Chris Lawrence. He felt an aftershock. This, almost 24 hours after the earthquake, a 7.0, struck.

How normal, how usual, extraordinary is this?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Not at all, Wolf. There's 35 other aftershocks already on the map since the 7.0. The earthquakes continue.

Now, I call them earthquakes because there were a comes 5.6s and 5.9s yesterday. In a real-world situation, that would be its own earthquake. It's called an aftershock because it's after a bigger earthquake, but, still, a very significant in itself. Those aftershocks will continue for months, months at a time.

And so we're seeing now, finally, Wolf, some planes in the air on the way to Haiti. A couple out of Miami, one of out of Dulles airport here, and so they are getting relief supplies in, telling us that -- at least we know that some of the runways or one of the runways in Haiti is available for planes to be landing. Some good news. At least they can get some relief supplies in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's good to know. That plane from Dulles, I think, is a plane bringing a lot of rescue workers to Haiti to deal with those folks who are still trapped under the rubble. And there are thousands and thousands of them.

Just to remind our viewers, the prime minister of Haiti told us a couple of hours ago he fears hundreds of thousands of people may be dead. The ambassador's still with us. He fears more than 100,000 may be dead or missing right now.

We're going to continue our breaking news coverage. We're getting some new video courtesy of our iReports just coming in right now. We'll show you what we have. These pictures are devastating, heartbreaking.

Our coverage continues after this.


BLITZER: President Obama came out this morning and promised that the United States government, the American people will do whatever is possible to save the lives of people in Haiti right now.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

Dan, the president is getting deeply involved in helping to coordinate this enormous U.S. relief operation.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He really is, Wolf. And according to senior administration officials, the president's day has been one of shuttling back and forth between these high-level meetings with top Democrats here on health care, to getting regular updates on the situation on Haiti.

Earlier today, he got an update from the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, and I'm told by a senior administration official that the president will be getting an additional update, details, in about an hour or so. The president obviously realizing this is a global response that's taking place here.

They're reaching out to some world leaders, the president of Mexico, the prime minister of Canada, also the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, trying to coordinate the efforts going into Haiti. But clearly this administration showing that it's being very aggressive as it tries to help the people of Haiti. It also accounts for all the Americans who are down there in Haiti, Wolf, 45,000 American citizens in Haiti. About 172 of them work at the American Embassy there.

and we're told by officials over at the State Department that all of them have been accounted for. There have been some injuries there, but certainly concerns not only for the American citizens there, but also the people of Haiti who are going through this difficult time.

BLITZER: And we're going to have the president's remarks coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Dan Lothian, stand by. It's very difficult to get communications going, photos come out from Haiti. Very difficult, indeed, to get that information. But we are getting some reports via the Internet.

Let's bring in CNN's Josh Levs. He's at the CNN Center.

Josh, some of these pictures are very dramatic.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are dramatic. And let me tell everyone, this is part of the story today, Wolf.

You know, we're talking about this huge crisis in Haiti. At the same time, we're talking about a new era in communications, when social media are playing such a huge role in the world. And this story, already, in just these hours, as been dramatically affected by the fact that people share this way.

Behind me are some pictures that are being shared on Facebook from a man we've been talking to several times, Carel Pedre (ph). And he has all sorts of really striking photos that we've pulled up here from various sections of Haiti where he's managed to go.

We also have some pictures here we'll show you from Jonathan Luma (ph), who has sent us some of these really striking pictures -- or, rather, Lusma (ph). Let's take those.

And what you'll be able to see is this is from the southwest corner of Haiti, where he traveled around. And I think -- do you have those graphics? There you go.

Let's take a look at these, because where he is, is pretty far from Port-au-Prince. And what's so striking when you see these photos, Wolf, is that even at that distance, and no matter where you are, we keep getting pictures from all over the country there. And we keep seeing similar pictures of devastation from so many parts of Haiti.

You're seeing destroyed buildings. And when you stop and really look at some of these still photos -- we've had a lot of images go past the eye. When you stop and really look at these, there are moments where you can feel the weight, you can feel the devastation, you can kind of feel the tilting and the crumbling that has horrified so many people and has trapped so many there.

All of it something that we are following very closely here at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Wolf. We've got our eyes on all the social media -- Twitter, Facebook, plus our own blogs and iReports to keep getting you the latest -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's really important, because folks all over the world, Josh, they're really worried about their loved ones in Haiti right now.

CNN is trying to help through CNN iReport. Tell our viewers what we're trying to do.

LEVS: You know what, Wolf? I've never seen anything like that. I'm going to open it behind me while I tell you about it.

Basically, what's happening is that, people are posting photos of the people that they are worried about. They're saying -- giving descriptions, they're saying where they last knew these people to be. They're saying, please, if you know anything about these people, let me know.

And what's interesting to me is that people inside Haiti, even amid this devastation, have been managing to communicate, to use the Internet, to specifically use So there are cases in which people are responding to each other, saying, I'll like out for your sister, I'll look out for your mother, I'll look out for your friend and try to find them.

Not only are we doing it, Facebook is doing it as well. A Facebook group went up this morning. It now has 40,000 members on it, Wolf. And people doing something very similar, sending photos of people that they're worried about, saying please help me find this person. People responding to that.

Again, social media amid this devastation, Wolf, playing a very important role.

BLITZER: Yes. And we have at, Impact Your World, an opportunity for people to weigh in and get involved and help these people in Haiti if they wants to do so.

Go to

The ambassador of Haiti is still here. He has to leave in a couple of moments.

It's amazing, this outpouring. I'm sure you feel it, Mr. Ambassador.

Is there anything you want to tell our viewers here in the United States and around the world before you go back to your embassy and deal with the State Department, the Defense Department and others?

JOSEPH: One thing I want to say is that the Haitian people are very hardy. We have gone through a lot of problems.

When the hurricanes hit us, four hurricanes in three weeks, people said how are they going to go through this? In the past year and a half, we were picking up the marbles, so to speak.

Now we're hit with this. And I told everyone, watch to see the kind of spirit that the Haitians are going to show, because I've been feeling this, and the world should know that the Haitians, who won their independence over 200 years ago with the slogan "In Unity There is Strength," have reclaimed that slogan again in the past three years.

BLITZER: Well, we wish you only, only the best. And our heart goes out to everyone in Haiti, our prayers as well. And, of course, everything we're trying to do, whatever we can to help in this crisis. The numbers are simply staggering.

We'll stay in close touch, Mr. Ambassador.

JOSEPH: And I want to thank everybody for the solidarity with my country. I want to thank the United States government and the government of the Dominican Republic, government of Brazil, that has come up right away with $10 million to help us. Venezuela, who were among the countries to respond very quickly.

Why? Because 200 years ago, Haiti was a country that sent men to liberate Venezuela.

BLITZER: And take a look at this. These are live pictures you're seeing from Haiti right now. Actually, this is videotape that just fed in.

They're distributing supplies at the airport in Haiti, and folks are getting badly needed water and other supplies right now. Hopefully, some of those planes coming in contain many containers of emergency equipment and supplies, and this rescue operation can really get going.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much.

Retired U.S. Army General Russel Honore is standing by to help.

We're going back to Port-au-Prince to speak with our reporters who are on the scene, including Anderson Cooper, Sanjay Gupta.

Our breaking news coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM continues after this.


BLITZER: They're handing out supplies at the airport in Port-au- Prince, in Haiti. It is feared, according to Haitian authorities -- the prime minister of Haiti telling CNN he fears hundreds of thousands may be dead. The ambassador here in Washington, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, he fears more than 100,000 are either dead or missing.

Supplies shortly, we're told, hopefully in the next few hours, will begin arriving. This is a desperate situation unfolding in Haiti.

Our coverage is extensive. We have all of our resources on the ground now, including our own Anderson Cooper, Sanjay Gupta, Susan Candiotti.

We're going back to Port-au-Prince in just a moment, but I want to check in with CNN's Deborah Feyerick right now. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.


BLITZER: We'll check back with other news that's coming in, but I want to go to Jill Dougherty. She's over at the State Department right now.

Jill, stand by for a moment. I know you're getting new information. We'll take a quick break. We'll go to Jill after this.


BLITZER: We're continuing our coverage of the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. It is now feared, according to Haitian authorities, perhaps 100,000 may be dead or missing, maybe more.

The prime minister of Haiti telling our viewers just a few hours ago that perhaps hundreds of thousands may be dead. The Haitian ambassador here in Washington just saying a few moments ago here in THE SITUATION ROOM more than 100,000 are feared dead or missing. We don't have any precise numbers.

Jill Dougherty is covering this story for us at the State Department. That's where they're coordinating this massive U.S. relief operation, this rescue operation that's unfolding.

You're getting new information, Jill. What are you learning?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hey, Wolf, just a few minutes ago, before I ran out here, I was able to catch and talk with P.J. Crowley, the spokesperson for the State Department's briefing. He's been giving a lot of them today, and here's some of the latest stuff that he told us.

The DART team -- those are the disaster assessment teams that assess what needs to be done on the ground -- they have 15 members. They are now on the ground and they are now trying to figure out locations where people need help the most.

And then the search and rescue teams that are coming in are arriving already. The one, remember we told you, Fairfax, Virginia, that's already on the ground. Miami and Los Angeles will be coming later today.

And then, also, he said that there are teams coming in from Britain and from France. So there's going to be a sizeable team on the ground over today and tomorrow.

The 45,000 Americans that we've been reporting actually live in Haiti, the embassy is still trying to get in touch with them. That's not an easy task, but there are so far no confirmed deaths.

They have evacuated injured to the naval base at Guantanamo. And then, also, they were told there are 100 to 160 Americans at the airport. They went there by themselves and have been hoping to get out, and they will. We're told that they should be evacuated by the end of the day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you're staying on top of this for us, Jill, at the State Department, where they're trying to get relief and rescue operations in as quickly as possible. Good to hearing that some already are arriving. I want to show our viewers some new video that's just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now, an aerial video showing Port-au-Prince. Look at this massive city in Haiti, the capital.

It's a city of two million people, although the ambassador just told us it was originally built for about 50,000 people. Very crowded, the structures not strong at all. And this is where most of the casualties are believed to have occurred in the capital of Haiti, in Port-au-Prince.

Our homeland security contributor, Fran Townsend, is here. She worked in the Bush White House. Russel Honore, the retired U.S. Army General, is joining us. As all of our viewers remember, he was instrumental in getting help to the people of New Orleans and Louisiana after Katrina.

When you look at this video, General Honore, it brings back memories, I'm sure, of Katrina, but this is a whole different kind of situation when you're talking about an earthquake.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Absolutely. And Wolf, you know the critical thing we're counting here now is now not days, and every hour we have slip by and don't get the right assets on the ground, we are losing people's lives.

And you're correct, it is different than a flooding event, but in many ways it's the same. Time is not on our side, and we need to move quickly to get medical equipment, as well as food and water, on the ground.

And right now, Wolf, the Coast Guard reports the port is closed, and they will have to put assets in there to open it. The Coast Guard is also flying out, as we speak, injured members from the U.S. Embassy. They are flying them out on helicopters. The Coast Guard has the cutter forward on the ground and two more ships arriving this afternoon.

BLITZER: It's a difficult situation for the U.S. government to mobilize, Fran. You were involved during your years in government, and you understand the complexity, especially in a country as poor as Haiti, a country of nine or 10 million people, probably the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: That's right, Wolf. And so, probably, one of the most immediate heart-wrenching challenges you have is accounting for the missing, the injured and the dead.

We heard the ambassador talk about that. They will look to the United States to help them sort through that, not just for U.S. citizens, but there are obviously Haitian-Americans here who are worried about their family members back home. And this is a really different challenge, especially given the lack of communication. The infrastructure isn't available to us.

It really is. They've got a tremendous challenge ahead. BLITZER: Is there a scenario usually in place in the U.S. government, all the career professionals, whether from AID or Defense Department, the Coast Guard, the State Department, where they would mobilize within hours to deal with a situation like this? Or does this simply come out of the blue?

TOWNSEND: No, it doesn't come out of the blue. And, in fact, it gets practiced even for international events.

We saw the president name the head of USAID as the coordinator, but even he needs some support.