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Humanitarian Crisis in Haiti

Aired January 14, 2010 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We are told the stench of death is overpowering in the Haitian capital right now.

We want to show you one picture that's particularly disturbing, but it says it all. Take a look at this picture. It shows hundreds of bodies apparently dumped outside the morgue in Port-au-Prince. Oh. Oh, my God. The Haitian Red Cross now estimates up to 50,000 were killed in Tuesday's massive earthquake. Haiti's prime minister fears hundreds of thousands may be dead. There's still no official count. But this picture certainly says it all. The loss is clearly enormous.

We are covering all the breaking news from Haiti, including the race to rescue quake victims trapped in the rubble.

CNN's Ivan Watson is on the scene. He's one of our many correspondents who are in Port-au-Prince and in the area right now.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right behind me -- and you can hear her voice sometimes -- is an 11-year-old girl named Anaika Sanlouis (ph). She's pinned underneath this rubble. And the -- the volunteers here are snaking through a hose right now to give her some drinking water. She is about 10 feet away.

And you can see the braids of this little girl's hair. I talked with her. She's wearing glasses and she is crying. She is in a lot of pain right now, and she is terribly scared.

This little girl -- it is kind of heartbreaking to hear this, because she's pinned there, Don. Her right leg is underneath the concrete, and her hands are free and her leg is free, and she is talking to us.

They are trying to give her some drinking water right now, and they have given her some food already. They only discovered her today, two days after the earthquake.

They think there are several dozen other people trapped under the rubble who probably did not survive. They're desperately trying to figure out how to get her out.

They are thinking about trying to cut her leg. They have anesthetics, but they don't have blood to help her if they have to cut her leg off to get her out, so they don't know what to do right now.

And we have seen other cases like this today. And it is pretty heartbreaking.


BLITZER: We are going to check back with Ivan Watson in a little while. We are going there.

But Chris Lawrence is standing by. He's over at the airport in Port-au-Prince, where the scene remains rather chaotic, I take it.

Chris, what's the latest?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is we continue (INAUDIBLE) rescue teams (INAUDIBLE) here in Haiti.

BLITZER: Hold on, Chris. We are having some trouble (INAUDIBLE) right now. We are going to fix that audio. We are going to get microphone ready. Stand by for a moment. Chris Lawrence is there.

We have a team of -- all of our reporters on the scene. We are going to be checking in with Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper. Susan Candiotti is there, Jonathan Mann. We are -- we are well located on the scene.

In fact, Susan Candiotti, just a little while ago, filed this report about the search that goes on.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was an extremely dramatic scene, and I know we have seen many of them play out throughout Port-au-Prince in these last two days. But this one wound up after they had been trying to dig this man out since yesterday.

What we have before you is this. That little crawlspace that you see there is at the bottom of a five-story building. It's a school building. This is the back of it. It fell down during the earthquake, crushing this police car. But below that building were a number of students. They were inside, including one man who happened to be in that building.

It came down on top of him. And the one side of his body was trapped with his right shoulder pinned underneath one of the concrete floors, the bottom floor. Also, one of his hands was trapped between a piece of the police car. And they couldn't get him out.

So they came up with an ingenious way to work on this. A group of people, a small group of people -- and, in Haiti, the term is called (INAUDIBLE) -- it was people who work together, may -- they may not know each other, but they work together to accomplish a single goal.

And in this case, they had a whole assembly line going, you might call it. They were using some people who were working with a chisel to break away and chip away at the cement. Then they had someone else using a blowtorch very, very gingerly trying to melt and burn away the rebar to try to cut the man's hand free.

And, throughout this, you could hear people -- you could hear this victim screaming, because the heat was burning his hand. But it was all they could do to try to free him. And all of this is playing out while you look at this very, very precarious position here. Let's look at this building here. It could fall at any time. At times the rocks, were falling down.

And, also, Don, they are also hearing other voices inside there. This was a schoolhouse. There were children inside there and adults, teachers as well.

Everyone is being quiet right now, because they are hearing some more voices inside. Even though they just got one man out and rescued him in an amazingly incredible operation, homespun, now we are going if see if they hear others. And that is why we are trying to be quiet.


BLITZER: Susan Candiotti is on the scene.

These are heart-wrenching stories, the search for survivors under the rubble that has devastated so much of Haiti right now.

Just to give you some perspective, 10 million people there. About three million have been directly affected by this earthquake, now approaching 48 hours.

Let's go back to the airport in Port-au-Prince. Chris Lawrence is on the scene for us.

Chris, describe what you have seen today, because you have seen some dramatic developments.

LAWRENCE: Well, exactly, Wolf.

We have been trying to find out the answers to some of the questions people had about perhaps why aid, humanitarian aid, wasn't arriving as quickly as a lot of people want it to.

Take a look behind me. We're live right here on the runway. I know it's loud. If you can see all of those yellow and white cases, that's humanitarian aid that being loaded on to those trucks that will start heading out to the community right now.

Just in the last hour, we have seen several more search-and- rescue teams arrive. South Florida search-and-rescue just got here and took off, hitting the streets about 40 minutes ago.

And you can see how international this effort is. Way at the other end of the airport, there's a Canadian plane, right in front of it, an Italian plane. The U.S. Air Force is standing right there, looking at a private airline here. And back the other way is a French plane. I am told that, in a normal day, this airport handles about 25 to 30 flights a day. Yesterday, they did about 75. As of 3:30 this afternoon, they had already done 55. So, they are well over twice what they would normally do in a day already.

And what I am told is, they did -- we did confirm that they were having planes circle around before landing. That was holding up some of the aid. But I'm told it's simply a space issue, that they simply cannot land the planes, get them unloaded or loaded as quickly as they would like to get them back in the air to clear space for yet another plane to land.

I also asked some of the officials about reopening airport to commercial traffic. An official who did not want to speak publicly on the record did tell me on background that, physically, the airport could handle commercial traffic.

It is the local staff that's a problem. That's the problem. That's what is holding things up. They said -- he said, simply, a lot of the staff has not come to work. Some of the staff is dealing with their own personal tragedies with their homes, their families.

You need a staff to check passports, to process people, to go through records, things like that. That's what they are missing. Even, say, in a lot of the military flights, the military comes with its own infrastructure. That's why it is able to work through this process, whereas some of the commercial airlines, they simply do not have the staff.

They have been able to fix some of the problems that have been plaguing the last couple days, though. I asked them if the air traffic, the tower was up and running yet. He said, well, not that one, but they have sort of jury-rigged the system in which one guy will stand here and actually spot the runway, put eyes on the runway. He will then communicated back to a communications center, who can then give clearance for planes to land.

So, it is not ideal. It is not the way they normally do things. But what they are trying to do is at least process as many planes as they possibly can -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to check back with you in a few moments, Chris Lawrence on the scene for us.

But on the phone joining us now is Margaret Aguirre. She is with the International Medical Corps. She is in Haiti.

Describe the scene as you as you best can, Margaret.


As our International Medical Corps' emergency teams started driving through the city when we arrived yesterday, it was just utter devastation throughout the main part of Port-au-Prince. I would say about 90 percent of the buildings were damaged and about 50 percent were flattened, downed power lines, bodies lining the roads.

The roads are hugged by -- by rubble. It was really a pretty perilous drive through the dark, people carrying the injured. So, it was -- it was pretty extraordinary.

BLITZER: Have you ever seen anything like this in all your years dealing with emergencies and relief operations?

AGUIRRE: Well, you know, I -- I haven't been doing -- working with International Medical Corps and in relief as long as some others, but they tell me that it's -- what's so extraordinary is that it is very difficult to even estimate the numbers of casualties, because, in many instances, the relief workers themselves, the people, the infrastructure here, the police and rescue, they themselves are missing.

And, so, a lot of the work that would be done to be able to rescue people, to be able to coordinate the relief efforts is much, much more difficult because those people themselves were lost or are missing, or their facilities are damaged.

BLITZER: Are you able to get doctors in with -- through the International Medical Corps? How are you doing?

AGUIRRE: Yes. We -- we got -- we have one doctor here who has already -- we arrived at the hotel last night to just drop our gear. And the hotels had become a (AUDIO GAP) hospital. There were about 100 people out in front injured who just showed up.

And we started doing triage immediately. We are bringing in more doctors. We have two more today. And then we have more coming tomorrow. So, we have been able to get people in. We are also working with local partners trying to support their efforts, but it is -- it's definitely really challenging.

BLITZER: Margaret, give our best wishes for success to all of your colleagues, everyone in Haiti. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Margaret Aguirre is with the International Medical Corps.

Fran Townsend is here. She's the former homeland security adviser to President Bush, but she has been helping us better appreciate this international effort to go in there and save lives.

That's the immediate requirement right now. There are people who are alive who are trapped in those buildings that have simply collapsed.


And -- and because we know that they are having trouble with the airport and getting people into the airport, the real challenge becomes, how do you triage that? You know, you have first-responders on the ground who are completely overwhelmed, and they have to make choices we -- none of us would ever hope to have to make. You don't want to walk past somebody in dire need, but you want to attend to as many people as you can as quickly as you can.

And that will be the real burden on the administration and international aid organizations, to -- to get people in there and sequence it in a way, because you have to support them. You can't just move them. You have got to actually be able to support them with supplies and transportation when they get on the ground. And, so, these are the sorts of things that they are sorting through as we speak.

BLITZER: These are decisions in effect, when you say difficult decisions, decisions that boil down to who lives and who dies.

TOWNSEND: That's right.


BLITZER: And those are the kinds of decision these rescue workers have to make right now.

TOWNSEND: That's right. We saw -- we saw Ivan's report and Sanjay's report earlier. Those dealing with children are just heart- wrenching stories and situations to put the first-responders in.

What you hope for, what you plan for and want is to get as many doctors, as many emergency medical personnel in there as quickly as you can with the supplies they need.

BLITZER: Gary Tuchman, our correspondent, is on the scene. We are going to be checking in with him.

We have also -- we will also be checking in with Haiti's ambassador here in the United States.

Lots more breaking news coverage coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here is a fresh look at the 7.0 earthquake at the moment it struck Haiti on Tuesday, 48 hours or so ago.

Other developments this hour: President Obama's now promising $100 million in immediate aid from the United States, a huge challenge for the Obama administration, getting Americans out of the country and getting aid in. About 160 Americans have been evacuated so far. Several hundred more are set to go.

Aid flights are allowed to land in Haiti once again, but charter flights from the United States have been stopped for now because the airport is simply overcrowded and jet fuel is very, very scarce.

With each hour that passes, health concerns grow in Haiti. The corpses lie on the streets, and they can certainly affect the water supply. Officials fear airborne diseases, even animals feeding off the bodies and carrying the diseases, so getting water, food, and medicine to survivors right now absolutely critical, but almost impossible.

CNN's Chris Lawrence explains.


LAWRENCE: Wolf, everyone keeps asking us, why is the aid not getting to Haiti faster? Well, we found out one reason. There are major problems here at the main port of Port-au-Prince.

See that huge green structure right there? That's the primary crane that would pick up those huge containers right off the ship and deposit them on shore to then be trucked into the city. You can see some of the damage with the hangar. Normally, the ships would pull up right down there. They would come off right towards the end there.

They would off-load a lot of their equipment on the trucks, and those trucks would just drive straight down this road right here. But you can see -- look what they would run into. The earthquake has buckled the road almost as tall as I am. There's no way you are going to get a truck through there.

And I can tell you, on the other side, that road is buckled all the way out to the main road. No way you are going to get a truck in there, no way you are going to repair this road in any length of time.

We were just speaking with a man who works for a Haitian shipping company. He has got three vessels filled with food water donated by charities from Miami, other countries, all ready to go. But he has no way to off-load all of those supplies and get them out to the people who need them.

It is a -- it is a frustrating situation, option A not here. They are looking at option B, C, D, anything to get that aid off those ships and get it to the folks who need it.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, at the main port in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


BLITZER: Let's get some more on the story.

Tom Foreman is here to take a closer look.

These images we are getting from Google Earth are very impressive, because they show some of the detail, some of the problems at the center of all of this.


Just for points of reference, we have talking about problems with the airport all day. The airport is right up here. This is the port area that Chris was talking about. Right now, what we are looking at is these pictures from Google Earth and DigitalGlobe. But as we move in here closer to the port -- this is exactly where Chris was standing down here -- I want you to watch what happens. This is the port. This is the area he's talking about right in here. And as we switch over to a different image -- this is from GeoEye -- since the quake, look at what happens to all of this area out in here.

You can see this enormous change that happens. Whole sections of this pier disappear out here. You can see that happen. You can see the crane that Chris was talking about right here all the way out here in the water, completely separated and fell out here. There's a picture of that crane right there, if you want to look at that. You can see how it is completely isolated now.

BLITZER: So, you can just assume, in this area, the water, there's an enormous amount of wreckage in there...

FOREMAN: Tremendous amount of debris.

BLITZER: ... which would make it very difficult for ships to come in.

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

And look what is happening up here on the dockside. Here's the dock. Look at this. That's also all collapsing. The concrete has fallen off here. So, again, you have things under water and above water which are problems.

As we move further down the way here, you can see also down here. There's more of a sense of how broken up it all is in this area. So, as you move in, this is where Chris was standing. Look at the concrete up in here. It is a complete wreck right in here.

Now, the good news, Wolf, is, if you look at all of this, that's all bad. If you can get past this, if you can build some kind of ramp or something from here, this road, Truman, which runs along the waterfront, looks like it is in relatively good shape and it is relatively clear. And it would link this with the airport, to a degree, which would be helpful in terms of shuttling forces back and forth, machinery back and forth, things that might be able to help.

But, right now, supplies can't get in here. And, up here, the supplies can't seem to go anywhere.

One more thing we should notice down here. Tomorrow, the U.S. aircraft carrier Vinson that is headed down that way will show up. And it will have helicopters or board. Those should be able to substantially help in terms of moving supplies from the airport to other places, if need be, and possibly moving some things in here to try to get this operational.

Again, we will have to see about that. We did see in the water out here in this GeoEye photograph, if we move all the way out here, you can see, very small out there, that's Coast Guard cutter with its own helicopters in the back. Trust me, these are very, very much needed and very important right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Because, if you can't directly get on the roads, those helicopters, especially the helicopters with good lift capability, they will be critical at getting supplies and equipment out to areas that desperately need it right now.

FOREMAN: They can be truly lifesavers in the next few days, until they can get more substantial support in.


BLITZER: And I want you to show our viewers next time this GeoEye, some of the images before and after, to give our viewers a contrast of the devastation from this earthquake.

FOREMAN: Pretty extraordinary stuff.

BLITZER: All right, Tom, thanks very much.

All right, we're going to check in with the Haitian ambassador here in the United States. He's very concerned about security developing -- security problems developing in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. The Haitian ambassador, he is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we will also check in with some of the other Important stories that have developed today.

Much more of our breaking news coverage coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's go right to Gary Tuchman. He is on the scene for us in Haiti.

Gary, where are you right now, and what are you seeing?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a real-time drama at a place called the Caribbean Marketplace. It basically was a four-story mall. It was only built three years ago.

But, as you can see, it was devastated. Many people died inside. Some of the bodies have already been taken away. But there are many bodies still inside this facility.

However, there is at least one survivor. She is inside right now. There are four rescuers that who are in a small area. It's very cramped. They are talking to her. They are right now communicating with her, asking her if she is OK. She says yes, but she's a very -- she sounds very tired. And it appears she has not had water now for about 48 hours.

With us right now, Michael Olafson (ph). Michael is with the Iceland search-and-rescue. There are at least four countries' search- and-rescue units who are here at this huge marketplace. What is the situation right now? Are you going to be able to rescue her? She only has a day left, pretty much, that she could survive without water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are getting very close to her. So, we say we are going to be able to get her out, as long as nothing external comes to intervene, other earthquakes. But we will get her out.

TUCHMAN: We just had an aftershock 30 minutes ago, and we saw rocks falling from the building. As you can see, it is very precarious. I mean, the fact is, right now, she's not trapped. There's nothing on top of her. She's just entombed, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's true.

TUCHMAN: So, the fact is, she is in good shape. If you can get her out, she will be OK. She will be able to walk out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not going to let her walk out because of dehydration. And we take all precaution. But, very likely, like the two survivors this morning, she will be OK.

TUCHMAN: And thank you very much, Michael, for talking with us.

What he's talking about the survivors this morning, two people pulled out this morning. They were also entombed. One woman -- it sounds kind of funny, but there's nothing -- there has been nothing to smile about here. This is something to smile about. She was trapped in the candy aisle, and she had access to candy. So, she was OK when they pulled her out.

But this woman, it is not a guarantee. And that's what is so sad. She's in perfect shape. They just can't get to her. There are tons of rubble surrounding her.

One thing, Wolf, before we go, I want to bring in somebody else here. This is such a sad story.

Come here, Jeff (ph).

Jeff, your last name is?


TUCHMAN: Jeff lives here in Haiti, Jeff Mosa (ph).

He was baby-sitting a 6-month-old girl. The 6-month-old girl's parents wanted to shop two days ago at the Caribbean Market. The parents are missing. Jeff now has the little girl. And he came here to see what the situation was. And he was informed that it is very unlikely there are any other survivors here.

Jeff, first of all, I'm very sorry. But what are you going to do with the child?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think the parents, the mothers, they are going to take -- I'm -- I'm -- I can't talk right now, because I'm so in emotion right now.

TUCHMAN: I -- and I don't want to make you any more upset than you are.

He told me the story. I was just touched by it, that he was taking good care of the 6-month-old child, and he is not sure what to do. But one other thing Jeff is dealing with right now is that, like so many people here, he has family in the United States. His mom and dad are in Miami. They have no idea he is alive.

And one of the things I told him, I would like him to come here to tell me what he is going through, but, also, your mom and dad's name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evelyn Mosa (ph) and Jumshah Teah (ph).

TUCHMAN: OK. So, if any of you -- or if they are watching, or if any of you know them in Miami, your son is alive and well here in Haiti and dealing with something that's very emotional and very difficult right now, right?


TUCHMAN: Thank you for talking with me.


TUCHMAN: Wolf, there are so many stories here. Unfortunately, almost all of them are sad ones. We have the potential for a happy one with the woman behind me. But we only have about an hour and 15 minutes left of daylight. They really want to complete this before it gets dark -- back to you.

BLITZER: Are people, Gary, just coming up to you randomly and saying, get message -- get word to my loved one, my family member in the United States or elsewhere that I'm alive, because they can't communicate with anyone? I assume that's happening to you and all of our CNN colleagues all the time.

TUCHMAN: Yes, that's happening quite a bit. Well, what is happening more, Wolf, is, people are coming up to us and asking us for food and water. And we are doing what we can. People are very hungry. And they are very thirsty. It was 91 degrees today and sunny. And it is very hot. And that's the problem.

We had, in this area, where this mall was located, there was extensive looting last night. We are very concerned what will happen tonight, because the fact is that people have no homes and no food and no water. And tempers are getting short. They feel the aftershocks. They feel there's going to be another earthquake.

We're trying to explain to people that, traditionally -- we don't guarantee anything, but, traditionally, there are many aftershocks after an earthquake, and they are never as strong as the original earthquake. But the rumors are rampant here in Port-au-Prince that there's going to be an aftershock that was bigger than the original earthquake.

And people are so scared. And even if they have homes, they don't want to go inside those homes. And thousands of people are sleeping in the streets and parks. We're doing our best to tell them, historically, please don't worry. Go in your house. Get some shelter.

But it doesn't work in all cases, that explanation to people.

BLITZER: And, as we saw live on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" last night, Gary, a rumor like that starts, and people start running. They leave behind what little stuff they have. And then thieves come and try to steal that stuff from people. It is just so sad and so heartbreaking to see what's going on.

Gary, Fran Townsend is here with us. She was the former homeland security adviser to President Bush.

I want her to ask you a question, because she's got some questions. You are on the scene.

Fran, talk to Gary and -- and ask him what comes to mind.

TOWNSEND: Gary, I would be interested to know, what do you see about police and other, you know, law enforcement, community support? Are there people patrolling? Because that's going to be the real -- as you mentioned, looting, and Wolf mentioned it as well last night. My concern is, we saw it in New Orleans, as you know.

Looting will continue to be a problem. And if it's not addressed, it will get worse. What are you seeing about law enforcement and police -- community policing?

TUCHMAN: Well, Fran, what we're seeing now is very little police presence. We have seen some police cars and police trucks going down the road.

One thing, for example, right now where we are standing right now, there are traffic jams because there are so many bodies that have been put on the side of the road. There are blankets over them. People respectfully don't want to run over the bodies, and there's huge traffic jams, and we see the police just going down the street, moving on to something else.

They're obviously dealing with other things. They can't deal with everything. There's just so much, they can't deal with it.

That being said, we have not seen overwhelming flow of police and fire officials. However, here, where we are right now, we do today, for the first time, see a huge output of international workers, search and rescue officials.

Right here where I'm standing, inside and surround thing this area, looking inside the shopping mall, we have search and rescue people from Belgium, we have them from Iceland, we have them from Spain, from Venezuela, and Fairfax County, in the United States. So, the international help is coming here to Port-au-Prince, but as far as the local government, as far as police and fire officials, that seems at this point to be a little underwhelming.

BLITZER: What about, Gary, the problem of mosquitoes and disease developing? Because we've seen all of these reports of these bodies lying around. It's hot, 85, 90 degrees there.

Tell us about that.

TUCHMAN: Well, there's a lot of concern among the citizenry here and also officials of the possibility of an outbreak of disease. And you're right, Wolf.

I mean, when we arrived here, you know, we were told that there were deceased people all over. It's worse than I even thought.

I mean, what we are seeing are bodies not only on the streets, but when people do recover the bodies, they put them on the back of trucks and they drive through the city on the back of the trucks. And it's a horrifying sight. It's something that we, who do this for a living and cover natural disasters, it's very unusual to see something like this.

So, there's a lot of concern among health officials not only because of the number of people who are deceased on the streets, but because there's no food and because there is no water, and the water that a lot of people are drinking is not good water. So, no one knows what the next few days and weeks are going to see.

But first things first. They are trying to rescue people who are still alive. And I guarantee you, that's the horrifying part of that.

We were able to go in a certain area of this mall that was considered relatively safe. What horrifies you, as you know -- I mean, we see bodies in there, deceased people -- what horrifies you to know is that there may be people inside there who are alive, there are likely people who are alive. It's a huge place, and you just can't hear them. That just boggles the mind, how terrible that is.


Fran has another question for you.

Go ahead, Fran.

TOWNSEND: Gary, I'm interested to know, you know, the next challenge for the first responders will be they are going to run low on their medical supplies and medical equipment. Have you -- what are you seeing there? How are they doing in terms of their equipment? Because they are going to need to be re-supplied pretty quickly here.

TUCHMAN: Fran, what I'm going to do is I'm going to ask my photographer to pan over a little bit and give you a look. And I know the picture isn't as clear on this particular unit we are using, but you can see, these are just some of the first responders, and they have come well stocked. The men in the red jackets are from Iceland. Great guys, search and rescue. They volunteer to do this. They leave their job.

They're joking about how the economy in Iceland, we have all known, hasn't been so good, and it's hard for a lot of them to leave their jobs. But they're dedicated, they're experts. They're here with people from Belgium, who are sitting here also, and Spain.

They're here with their dogs. They've come with lots of equipment. And they know the first 72 hours are crucial and key. But they are well provided for here.

The problem is there are so many scenes like this throughout Port-au-Prince. And there are plenty of places where there's absolutely no first responders, no police, no fire. And it's the residents of the neighborhoods who are dealing with it themselves.

We saw it yesterday. I mean, people who are not doctors who are acting like doctors, doing the best they can.

BLITZER: All right. I want to tell you, Gary, the cavalry is on their way. And they are on the way. The question is, once they get there, will they really be able to get to the areas that need them so desperately?

We're going to check back with you, Gary. Thanks very much for your reporting. Thanks for everything you are doing.

We are going to continue our breaking news coverage. We'll be speaking with the Haitian ambassador here in Washington. He's got a message to Haitian-Americans and to a lot of other folks out there right now.


BLITZER: Communications are extremely spotty in Haiti. So many people outside of Haiti are finding it extremely hard, if not impossible, to get information about their loved ones. Some Haitian government officials are providing information on what they know.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the ambassador to the United States from Haiti, Ambassador Raymond Joseph.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for coming in.

RAYMOND JOSEPH, HAITIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Thank you for inviting me again.

BLITZER: Is the situation, based on everything you're hearing from your government, getting worse on the ground in terms of tensions and devastation?

JOSEPH: Yes. Right now, after 48 hours, almost 48 hours, people start to be impatient, especially that some rescue a little bit slow. And some aftershocks are still being felt. For example, in the city of Kai (ph) -- that's in the southwestern tip, southwestern tip of Haiti -- there were aftershocks this morning. And the hospital there, the main hospital, collapsed.

BLITZER: The whole hospital?

JOSEPH: The whole hospital. That's the information we have.

BLITZER: And is there looting going on? Is security a problem?

JOSEPH: So far there is no looting. They started to have some people who want to take advantage, and saying, "Here it comes, here it comes," so people rush out of their houses and they grab a few things. But I understand that the police have been doing an admirable job.

BLITZER: What will be the role of the U.S. military? Because the 82nd Airborne is going in, Marines are coming in. What do you want the U.S. military to do?

JOSEPH: I think that their first job would be bringing in the heavy equipment and help clearing the streets, clearing the roads, because what's going to happen to us very soon is that the Port-au- Prince airport is going to be overloaded with supplies coming from abroad, and there's no way of distributing it to the people that really need it.

BLITZER: Because the roads are blocked.

JOSEPH: The roads are blocked. So I think that's major issue now. And I have asked, you know, sort of almost on my knees, saying let's get the roads open.

BLITZER: You've asked who?

JOSEPH: Friends. They know who they are.

BLITZER: What do you mean, like, the U.S. government?

JOSEPH: The U.S. government, our friends in the Dominican Republican have offered. But they need to work together with the U.S. I have to say...

BLITZER: You're sounding a little frustrated that some governments are not responding as you would like.

JOSEPH: It's not that they are not responding. It's that the speed with which people would like things to happen is not happening like that. And I don't think it is anybody's fault.

Some of the equipment may not have been next door to Haiti. Right inside Haiti, we do have heavy equipment. The government of Haiti does have quite a few large equipment that they've been using on road building. But they are out of Port-au-Prince. And how do you bring it in Port-au-Prince when the roads are blocked?

BLITZER: But do I sense some tension between Haiti and the Dominican Republic?

JOSEPH: No. We don't have -- this time, I have to say the Dominican Republic has been really exemplary in the way it has worked. And now there are a lot of produce, equipment, even, at the border. The Dominican Republican expecting some authorization to come across.

BLITZER: To come in.

What's your message to the hundreds of thousands of Haitian- Americans, Haitians who are living in America right now who are so worried about their loved ones?

JOSEPH: Well, I say a little patience. Before, about 24 hours ago, nobody could get through to Port-au-Prince on the telephone. Right now, at least one of the telephone companies, Voila Comcel, has about 75 percent of the calls coming in.

There are two other major telephone companies, Haitel and Digicel. I don't know what's happening for them. Perhaps most of their towers fell. But Voila Comcel has restored 75 percent of the calls.

BLITZER: Well, that's encouraging.

JOSEPH: That's very encouraging.

So, I'm telling the people here, Haitian-Americans who have felt frustrated because they could not reach their people in Haiti, keep trying again.

BLITZER: Yesterday when we spoke you thought a hundred thousand dead in Haiti was unfortunately realistic. Has that number changed over the past 24 hours?

JOSEPH: I have not gotten any update on that. As I said, it's about that number, and I'm not saying all of them are dead. Unaccounted for also.

BLITZER: Missing.

JOSEPH: Missing.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, good luck.

JOSEPH: Well, thank you very much. I think the Haitian people are very sturdy and they are fighters. And I think we will live through this.

BLITZER: We hope so.

JOSEPH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: And we're getting some new images that are just coming in from Port-au-Prince, elsewhere in Haiti. Our reporters are on the scene. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he himself has performed some medical procedures for little kids who are desperate right now.

Remember, Impact Your World. If you want to help, this is what you do. You go to And you'll find a whole list of very, very important organizations that you can help provide some funds.

Our coverage continues right after this.


BLITZER: It's the kind of hell rarely ever seen. What's happening in Haiti right now is oh, so disturbing. And we must warn you, many of the images you will be seeing equally disturbing.

The breadth of destruction is staggering. When you look at it from the sky, you are able to see just how many homes are flattened, how many buildings have crumbled, and you can only imagine how many people were inside.

And then there's what's happening on the ground. The degree of suffering right now is staggering.

The few makeshift hospitals are simply overwhelmed. The needy, especially the children, they are waiting for medical care.

And, of course, bodies are trapped under the rubble. Some have been pulled out. Haiti desperately, desperately needs earthmoving equipment. But getting that equipment in and getting other supplies in is a huge, huge challenge, so others must wait to be rescued.

This is awful, awful, what's going on. The whole world is trying to help, but it is by no means easy.

We're going to take another quick break.

When we come back, we will be speaking with all of our reporters on the scene. Also, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The retired U.S. Army general, the former chief of staff, he's going to be joining us to talk about what's going on in Haiti.


BLITZER: What about the estimated 45,000 Americans living in Haiti and others who are visiting there?

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is joining us now with more on the evacuation efforts and what's going on.

What is going on? What's the latest you're hearing, Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I just got out of a briefing with P.J. Crowley, the spokesman for the State Department, and unfortunately, he has some sad news here for the State Department, that the first American who is confirmed dead in this earthquake is Victoria Delong (ph).

She was a cultural officer at the embassy. She had been there for about a year, a longtime employee of the State Department. And she died in her home during this earthquake.

He also gave some updates on this -- what's turning out to be a massive relief and rescue operation. Thirty countries now involved in providing meaningful help and assistance.

There are eight international teams, search and rescue teams, on the ground now. They are U.S. and international, and they are looking right now, roads that are passable, buildings where they might have people who are trapped. They're out there. It's a very fluid situation, looking for as many people as they can find.

They're also coordinating with the NGOs, providing food, water, shelter, et cetera. At the airport, another thing that's important to note, the airport, quite a bit of congestion as planes are coming in. Who controls it? Well, they just said in the briefing that it is U.S. military air traffic controllers who are running it, but the airspace is still controlled by the Haitians.

And then finally, a couple of updates on Americans. We had been reporting that they had been evacuating some. About 300 to 400 evacuated today. They're going to the Dominican Republic. And seven were airlifted to Guantanamo Naval Base.

Those are the injured.

And then, finally, Wolf, you know, they are saying -- Cheryl Mills (ph) said to today at the State Department that there aren't a lot of Americans who really want to leave. Many of them live there and they want to stay and help.

BLITZER: And many of them, Jill, are dual citizens, and they have been living there for many, many years.

All right. Stand by, Jill, because I know you are constantly getting more information. And that phone number, I want to put it up, 888-407-4747. That's a number where people can call to get information about loved ones in Haiti. That's a State Department toll-free number.

A former secretary of state has been to Haiti and is very, very disturbed, rather emotional about what he is seeing right now.


BLITZER: And joining us now, General Colin Powell.

It has hit very close to home for you. Your parents are from the Caribbean. You know Haiti quite well.

Tell us what you have been going through over these past few hours.

COLIN POWELL, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: I do know Haiti quite well. And I've been associated with Haiti for many, many years with respect to the political turmoil and the humanitarian difficulties that they've had in that country.

And when the first pictures started coming across the morning after, and I saw the presidential palace flattened and some of the churches flattened, it hit me very deeply. I had been in that palace. I had done negotiations in that palace. And it's a beautiful building, and to see it collapse and then to realize what that meant for the rest of the city, struck me deeply, and my heart immediately with out to the Haitian people who have suffered so much.

I mean, just two years ago, they lost 800 people in the hurricane floods. And now, here we have this terrible earthquake that has taken the lives of how many thousands, we don't know yet. It's a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to them.


BLITZER: All right. The full interview with the former secretary of state, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, that's coming up in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

We're going to continue our breaking news coverage right after this.


BLITZER: President Obama and top administration officials showing solidarity today with Haiti. He announced $100 million in immediate humanitarian aid and promised the people of Haiti they will not be forgotten.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've made it clear to each of these leaders that Haiti must be a top priority for their departments and agencies right now. This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership. For the sake of our citizens who are in Haiti, for the sake of the Haitian people who have suffered so much, and for the sake of our common humanity, we stand in solidarity with our neighbors to the south knowing that, but for the grace of God, there we go.


BLITZER: In the midst of so much death and destruction, some truly remarkable rescue stories.

CNN's Anderson Cooper was there for one of them.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For many trapped in the rubble of downtown Port-au-Prince, the struggle to live continues.

(on camera): We have heard there may be somebody who is alive buried in there. People on the streets say there is a 15-year-old who is buried alive there and that they are talking. But we are going to go and try and see if that is the case and if there is anything we can do.

But, I mean, the street, I have never seen anything like this. Look at this. It is just -- it is just complete devastation. This is downtown Port-au-Prince, just a few blocks from the presidential palace, just about a block from the national cathedral, which itself is pretty much destroyed.

(voice-over): Atop a pile of rubble that used to be a building, we find a small group of men who have been digging here for more than five hours to rescue a teenaged girl.

Her feet are the only part of her still visible.

(on camera): It turns out it's a 13-year-old girl trapped here. Her name is Bea (ph). She is clearly alive. You can hear her crying out. You can see two of her feet at this point. They have been able to...


COOPER: She is clearly in some pain. They discovered her early this morning. It is now a little past 12:00. And they're still digging.

They are not clear how they are going to get her out. They only have this one shovel. They don't have any heavy earth-moving equipment.

They are being very careful about what they are moving. They are afraid if they move this big slab that seems to be on top of her that other stones, other pieces of cement could fall on her and crush her. So, they are actually kind of arguing over what to do next.

(voice-over): Bea's brothers can do nothing. He just stands by listening to his sister's cries.

This man says his father is also trapped in the building, but is already dead.

"I don't have a father anymore," he cries. "Gone. Had I been in the house, I wouldn't be here anymore either."

Worried more aftershocks may come and destroy the building even more, these family and friends work frantically. Finally, after being trapped for more than 18 hours, the men make a small hole and pull Bea out. She is alive. She is finally free.

(on camera): Did you think you would come out alive?

(voice-over): "I felt that I would live," she says. "I wasn't scared. I wasn't scared of anything. People were dying below me. I could hear them, but I wasn't scared. My heart didn't skip a beat."

"I heard them crying," she says. "I heard an old lady crying, 'God, I'm dying' last night. I heard my aunt running and a big block fell on her."

Bea's aunt at is dead. She and three others are covered in cloths and laid out on the street. (INAUDIBLE) her face.

(on camera): This man has lost four family members. He just showed me his wife's body, which is under a shroud. And he is now worried about another family member who is an American. And he believes she is trapped inside that building as well, and he is pretty sure she's dead.

(voice-over): There's no telling how long it will be before he knows for sure just how many people he has lost. This is just one building. This is just one block. The suffering here has just begun.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, Port-au-Prince.


BLITZER: We're going to be joining Anderson Cooper shortly. He's going to join us from the scene in Port-au-Prince. All of our reporters are on the scene. We're continuing our breaking news coverage.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're in THE SITUATION ROOM. It's now the top of the hour. We're not leaving this story because there are developments unfolding right now.