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Haiti's Desperation; UN Moves Aid Tent Due to Threat of Violence

Aired January 15, 2010 - 18:00   ET



CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You can see a lot of to men pushing their way up. Haven't seen any of the women be able to get up here.

It is swiftly getting a little chaotic here. They had to stop it. They started blowing their whistles and had to stop it about 10, 15 minutes ago.

It just started back, but it seems to only be able to last for about five minutes before it starts getting out of hand again.

The thing that I'm noticing, too, is like there's a lot of small kids in there that are getting jammed up against other people, or they're just getting pushed out of the way entirely.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: First devastation, now desperation setting in.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We are continuing our coverage.

There is Chris Lawrence. He is right in the middle of all of this chaos, what is going on.

Chris, we saw the crowded people around an aid truck. They clearly need food. They need water. They need help. And they need lots of it. Aid trucks are handing it out, but it is quickly running out.

Chris, what was it like in the middle of that chaos?

LAWRENCE: Just -- you were just getting knocked around.

And, I mean, I'm a fairly big guy, and I was looking at these women and these little kids just getting knocked clear out of the way. And the sad thing about it was, you know, you had armed U.N. guards, peacekeepers there. This was organized by the World Food Program, which is very experienced in this area, and yet, you still had this mass confusion, especially when it came to these high-energy biscuits, which is one of the things the World Food Program is trying to give away, but people got totally confused about what was going on, and they didn't even want to take the food that was being offered to them.

BLITZER: Chris, you have prepared a report on what it was like. I want to play it for our viewers right now.


LAWRENCE: We are in the back of a United Nations truck heading to the center of the city. You can see, we are jammed in pretty tight with a lot of the same supplies that the World Food Program is going to be delivering to the people of Haiti.

You can take a look next to me, you can see some of the U.N. guards. It is going to be their job to try to keep some form of order, so things don't get out of hand.

The truck has now made it here to the park near the presidential palace, a lot of people starting to push and shove their way, trying to get up to where the food is.

You can see a lot of to men pushing their way up. Haven't seen any of the women be able to get up here.

It is swiftly getting a little chaotic here. They had to stop it. They started blowing their whistles and had to stop it about 10, 15 minutes ago.

It just started back, but it seems to only be able to last for about five minutes before it starts getting out of hand again.

The thing that I'm noticing, too, is like there's a lot of small kids in there that are getting jammed up against other people, or they're just getting pushed out of the way entirely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not good like that, OK? It's not good like that.


LAWRENCE: What is wrong with the -- what is wrong with the biscuits? Why don't people want to eat it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a bad thing. It's a bad case.

LAWRENCE: What's happening is, they're confusing the date that it was -- that it was packaged on, which was 2008, with the expiration date, which is November 2010.

I know it's hard to see, but he's basically yelling and telling people, do not accept these biscuits, because they're no good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are very concerned, but the biscuits are very good. They're OK, no.

LAWRENCE: But you can see everybody's following the truck, but there it goes. They're trying to even just hold onto the back of it, but it's pulling away. A lot of people ended up with nothing. But I don't know if you can still see. They're running after the truck, trying to get it. But that truck is gone now.


LAWRENCE: Yes, and there it was, Wolf, just that scene of watching people running down the street after the food truck, after seeing them take what is good food, throwing it to the ground, stepping on it, refusing to eat it, and some of the young men yelling at other people not to eat that food.

It was sad, because then you watch all these women, some older people, some children walk away, and all that food, all those water purification tablets were still on the truck that was speeding away.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story that is.

All right, Chris Lawrence on the scene, we will check back with you.

In Haiti, today could determine whether thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of people live or die. Disaster experts say most deaths happen within three days after an earthquake. Today is the third day. Already, there are bodies in the streets and many are being buried in mass graves.

Just a little while ago, I checked in with CNN's Anderson Cooper in Port-au-Prince.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Well, Wolf, you know, there's been a lot of rumors in this city about what's happening with the bodies. As of late last night, we started to see bodies picked up by front-loaders, a bulldozer-like equipment, and then being dumped into dump trucks, and then carted off.

It wasn't really known where -- where those bodies were going. There were rumors some were being burned. What we found today was at least one series of mass graves far on the outskirts of the city of Port-au- Prince out near the mountains in a field.

We followed a dump truck and discovered what is just a mass grave in this field. There were three or four pits that were still open that were about half-filled. We saw probably as many as 50 or 60 bodies lying either in the pits, or some of them had just been dumped into piles out on the ground.

And, at first, when you looked at them, it was hard to tell what they were. They were wrapped up, some of them in cloth. Some of the bodies were still tied to doors that people had used as stretchers. There was even one body that was stuffed into an old refrigerator that someone had used to carry that body to where it was left.

And it's -- you know, in Sri Lanka, we saw this. We saw mass graves. And, often, in natural disasters, because the sheer -- the question of getting bodies buried in time, mass graves are a common thing. But, in Sri Lanka, there was organization, and they at least photographed the bodies, so loved ones might be able to identify them. Here, there's no such organization.

These people are simply being dumped into pits and covered over, and then more people piled on top of that. And for their loved ones, unless they saw that person die and saw the body for themselves, they may never know what actually happened. And we may never know exactly how many people died here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, there's no record, as far as you can tell, that's being kept, names, identification numbers, of individuals; people are simply disappearing?

COOPER: Absolutely.

I mean, I -- we were -- we were there long enough that another dump truck came while we were there. The driver -- one driver got out of the vehicle. Another person got behind the wheel, and they just dumped another load of -- of human remains, of another 25 to 30 people, we estimated, into this pit, and then literally drove off.

I mean, there -- there could be American citizens in there. There are certainly a lot of Haitians in there. There's no telling who these people are. And there's certainly no records that I could tell being kept of how many people are being buried in these mass graves.

BLITZER: How worried are the experts there, Anderson, that, yes, thousands have died in the earthquake, but now many more people potentially could die in the aftermath of disease that they're -- that they're getting because of a lack of medical equipment or antibiotics or other medicine?

COOPER: well, I mean, there's no doubt that people are dying today and died yesterday and died the day before that because of -- I mean, it's stupid deaths, I mean, deaths that didn't need to occur if there was -- if they had access to antibiotics, or if they had access to a doctor who could treat their wounds, or if they had access to a surgeon who could amputate a limb, so that gangrene didn't spread and course through their whole body.

So, you know, there are -- people are dying today because the -- you know, enough aid is not in the right place and there are not enough personnel to help those people. And there's a lot of stuff in the pipeline, and we have all been reporting on that. But it's -- you know, it's obviously incredibly frustrating for people here, and people are losing their lives.

You can break a leg here, Wolf, and have an open wound, and that can lead to an infection, and you can die of sepsis in a relatively short, short period of time, I'm told. So, you know, it's hard to believe that just something like a broken leg could end up killing you, but that's the situation here.

Without antibiotics, without proper treatment, people are dying of things that -- that no one in this day and age should be dying of. BLITZER: We're going to be speaking with a physician who is on the scene right now. We're going to get into that.

But, Anderson, before I let you go, is there any semblance of a Haitian government there, police, other law enforcement authorities? Or has all of that simply collapsed?

COOPER: No, I don't think it's fair to say it's collapsed. Driving around a lot today in Port-au-Prince, I saw Haitian police out outside gas stations. You know, there are long lines for gas. People can be -- it would be very easy for people to start fighting over access to those gas pumps.

There were Haitian police, well-dressed in well-pressed uniforms standing with guns outside two gas stations that I saw. So, that, to me, is a sign of, all right, there is some sign of organization on the police force. They're there at key points.

Believe it or not, traffic lights are working, oddly enough. I mean, there's no electricity throughout much of the city, but, for some reason, at least in a lot of places I was on, the traffic lights seemed to be working, and people seemed to be kind of obeying those lights.

And, look, it's clearly some sort of Haitian government effort that -- that is collecting these bodies. I saw a bulldozer down this street. That's the first bulldozer I have actually seen working today. We're seeing a lot more search-and-rescue teams driving around.

And I saw a U.N. -- a group of Bolivian peacekeepers who, on their own, had just gone to a poor neighborhood, had two trucks with prepared food, a hot meal. And, in a very orderly way, they were handing out hot meals to -- to people who were in this makeshift encampment. So, you're seeing some organization, but there's no central organization, Wolf.

And that's probably the most important thing. No one really knows where the worst-affected areas are. There's not a sense of like, OK, the next team that arrives should go here. No one -- it doesn't seem like there's any one group. The U.N. has a coordinating body. The U.S. military is going to be coordinating a lot things from the airport.

But you -- you don't feel much of a Haitian government presence. Clearly, the onus is going to be on international forces and the United States.


BLITZER: Anderson Cooper is on the scene for us. We're going to be checking back with him, with Sanjay Gupta, all of our reporters.

CNN's Mary Snow is also standing by with a story of adoption, adoption of Haitian orphans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The devastation is great. Fortunately, though, the response is great as well.

Here is the latest on Haiti as of now. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will fly there tomorrow. She will with Haiti's president. Secretary Clinton says she will bring relief supplies with her, and when she leaves, she will bring out some of the American citizens waiting to be evacuated.

Because of this crisis, Haitians here in the United States illegally will be allowed to stay temporarily, that from the Obama administration. It says this temporary protected status, as it's called, applies to Haitians in the United States as of Tuesday.

And although there is no official death count, Haiti's minister of civil protection today says the government estimates that more than 50,000 people are dead, possibly closer to 100,000 people.

Mass graves are being dug for the countless dead in Haiti's capital and time is running out to save people who are trapped alive in the rubble. With little food or water available, some desperate survivors are turning to looting. Bodies remain in the streets. The stench of death hangs over the city. Many of the images we are showing you are very disturbing.

CNN teams are deployed throughout the disaster zone.

Let's go to CNN's Ivan Watson. He's in Port-au-Prince with more on what is going on.

Ivan, what is the latest? What did you see today?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am sorry. I couldn't quite hear your question there, Wolf.

One of our correspondents, in addition to Anderson Cooper, witnessing some of these bodies being dumped. Another CNN journalist, Joe Duran, found about five miles outside of the city bodies dumped into five open pits out of trucks, trucks filled with debris, furniture and bodies as well, hundreds of people.

Now, the president of Haiti, Rene Preval, he spoke on United Nations Television and announced that there were three priorities right now, first to get the Haitian government up and running, and the U.N. peacekeepers up and running. Their headquarters was destroyed. Second priority was to try to clear the roads to allow the aid to come through, and finally to sanitize the city, to clean the bodies out of the streets.

And we just had four dump trucks, which are presumably being used for that purpose, pass by just now. Now, we have been bringing you some of the stories of the individuals here who have been caught in this catastrophe.

And, today, we had the story from our CNN affiliate from Australia, Channel 9, of an 18--month-old girl that they discovered. They were walking around in ruins, heard the cries of a baby girl. And they actually discovered her in a hole. And their translator climbed in and found this lone girl lost in the rubble, pulled her out, and managed to save her, 18-month-old Winnie (ph), a baby girl, who was given back to her uncle, many of the other relatives believed to have been killed in the earthquake.

Now, a separate tragedy that has taken place here, Wolf, yesterday, we brought you this story of 11-year-old Anaika Saint Louis. She was caught under the rubble of a house. And we spoke with her. She held my hand as the men tried to cut her free from underneath this house. She was in a lot of pain. She was scared, but she was very active, drinking water, eating.

And, after sunset last night, they managed to cut her out and rush her to a first aid station. We just spoke with her family, Wolf, and they gave me tragic news that, shortly after she arrived there, she passed away. The doctors could not save her.

That is how life and death is operating here in Port-au-Prince these days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: She was an adorable girl. We saw that report you filed yesterday. She was wearing those glasses. She had the little braids. She seemed like she was going to be OK. Is it a matter that they don't have the medical equipment, the supplies, the doctors and the nurses to really save these people? Is that what is going on here, Ivan?

WATSON: I think so, Wolf.

This little girl, her right leg was crushed. And we have been to the medical clinics over the past couple of days. They are overwhelmed. There is a little one right here that the mayor's office is running, and they don't have enough needles, they told me, to sew sutures, to stitch people up.

And we have heard awful stories at some of the other clinics and at the hospitals that Dr. Sanjay Gupta has visited as well. They are simply overwhelmed. And they bring a girl with grave, grave injuries who had spent 48 hours pinned, and they bring her to a first aid station, and the doctors there said, we cannot handle this.

She has to go to a doctor and get this. They have to go to a hospital three-hours drive from Port-au-Prince. And they didn't even make it out of the city, and I am told they didn't even make it out of the first aid center -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story that is. We saw that girl survive, get out of there, and only to die later.

Ivan, thank you very much.

Ivan Watson is doing some excellent reporting for us.

A Washington State family has received the news they were dreading. A U.S. search crew in Haiti has found the body of their 22-year-old daughter, Molly Hightower. She died when the orphanage in which she was volunteering collapsed.

Here is how the campus minister from her high school is remembering her.


JIM FISH, MINISTER, BELLARMINE PREPARATORY SCHOOL: She wanted to put her life in Christ's hands completely.

And for an 18-year-old to say that, and never knowing what was going to happen, is very uplifting, I think, for us, her depth of faith and her sincerity. That why it is so sad. But she is such a great witness to -- I'm sorry -- everything we believe in, and -- sorry.


FISH: So, she was just a very kind kid. And she was -- you know, she played softball, was just very involved, a very typical, you know, high school kid in so many ways. And there was a depth to her. Her faith was so important. It just kept growing all the way through here. And she embraced that.


BLITZER: Molly was a student at the University of Portland. She was taking a year off to work with disabled children in Haiti, helping them with physical therapy.

Our deepest, deepest condolences to her family.

We will check in with Mary Snow when we come back, an amazing story of adoption, orphans in Haiti. We will be right back.


BLITZER: Several hundred American families right now in a very difficult possession. They were in the process of adopting children from Haiti when this disaster struck.

CNN's Mary Snow is taking a look into their plight.

Mary, what are you finding out?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we found out is that the way that Haitian adoptions work is that children can be matched with adoptive parents early on in the process. So, bonds are formed before the child leaves an orphanage.

And we spent time today with a couple who had just finished the legal process. They were just waiting on a visa for one of two children they are adopting.


SNOW (voice-over): Duke and Lisa Scoppa were getting ready to bring their 4-year-old son Erickson to New York from Haiti within weeks. They are in the process of adopting Erickson and 4-month-old Therline. Both children are in an orphanage about 20 years east of Port-au- Prince. The couple got word Tuesday night that the children are safe, but the situation at the orphanage is growing worse.

LISA SCOPPA, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: They are running out of water and they are running out of food very, very quickly. We were told yesterday that they have less than a week's worth of supplies. So, we are starting to become truly concerned for their well-being and for their survival.

SNOW: Adoptions in Haiti can take up to three years, and unlike some other countries, parents are matched early on with the child, so the Scoppas have already been able to visit their children several times. They took these home videos.


SCOPPA: We have known Erickson for a very, very long time, and he is growing up in an institution. And he is probably scared right now, and we just are completely powerless to do anything.

SNOW: Their biggest fear? Having to start over, since they have been told the orphanage's administrative office in Port-au-Prince has been destroyed, along with years' worth of adoption paperwork. They are not alone. The State Department estimates there are 254 American families in the process of adopting children in Haiti. One group is now trying to collect information.


SNOW: Tom DiFilipo, the president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, has started a registry on his Web site. He says the goal is to direct emergency relief to orphanages and to track the completion of adoptions that had been initiated.

Now, as the world watches the horrific images from Haiti, he says there has been an outpouring of people wanting to help the children, and many who want to adopt them, but he says now is not the time for new adoptions.

DIFILIPO: And just about every credible organization in the world agrees that, during a time of national crisis, we don't want to initiate new adoptions. We want to make ensure that these children are reunited with family members, the parents, or extended family members.

SNOW: Right now, he says the priority is to get supplies to orphanages. And he's hoping to ensure that adoptions already in process like the Scoppas' get finalized.


SNOW: Now, Wolf, we did reach out to the State Department. It says it is working with the Department of Homeland Security to determine how these adoption cases should be handled. DHS also says it has begun defining possible ways to expedite these adoptions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Based on your reporting, Mary, are a lot of Americans actually getting interested in adopting kids from Haiti right now?

SNOW: They are.

We talked to an adoption agency. One said that they had gotten several dozen e-mails and calls. I also was talking to a mayor's office in a small town outside New York that has a Haitian community there saying they're getting offers of people saying they want to adopt. They have seen these heartbreaking images and stories. And people are really like flooding the phone lines saying they want to do something and they want to bring these children into their homes.

BLITZER: Yes, I am getting e-mails from viewers as well.

All right, Mary, thanks very much, an important story.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is over at a makeshift clinic in Port-au-Prince right now. And there is a dangerous situation developing not far away. We will check in with Sanjay Gupta after this.


BLITZER: We are continuing the breaking news coverage of what is going on, the disaster of Haiti.

The homeland secretary, Janet Napolitano, says the United States is granting Haitian nationals already in the United States illegally temporary protected status for the next 18 months. He says returning home to the disaster now would place them in danger.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced she will travel to Haiti tomorrow. She plans to meet with Haiti's president, survey the damage, deliver supplies, and bring out some American citizens waiting to be evacuated.

Aid is beginning to trickle in to survivors of Tuesday's magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Logistics for distributing food and water and bringing humanitarian flights in have yet to be ironed out. It is still a nightmare.

Joining us now on the phone, from Port-au-Prince, is Colin Chaperon, he is the disaster relief specialist with the American Red Cross.

Colin, what is going on from the American Red Cross perspective, and how is the situation unfolding?

COLIN CHAPERON, DISASTER RELIFE SPECIALIST, AMERICAN RED CROSS: The situation is very grave. It is desperation here and still chaotic in some parts of Port-au-Prince. The evacuation, search-and-rescue is still underway with bodies being evacuated from buildings. The Haitian National Red Cross is set up in various camps and hospitals providing first aid and support to the victims.

BLITZER: Do you have enough equipment, supplies? What do you need? What does the American Red Cross need right now?

CHAPERON: Well, we are working closely with the International Federation of Red Cross. We need supplies. All kinds of supplies, medical supplies, and we have a hospital unit on the way here. There is a huge need for emergency shelter, food, water, but basic medicals and that the key right now.

BLITZER: What about personnel? Do you have enough people already on the ground, or do you need a whole lot more?

CHAPERON: There are a lot of agencies on the ground, and I think that the humanitarian community is coming together. There is a lot of search-and-rescue teams from various organizations and the Red Cross has arrived and we have seven emergency response units on the ground, with a field assessment coordination team. So, in the next 24 to 48 hours, it should be definitely underway with our assistance.

BLITZER: Colin Chaperon is on the American Red Cross.

Colin, good luck to you, good luck to all your colleagues as well. Good luck to all the people of Haiti.

In some cases medical teams are being told to pack up and go, just as they are trying to help the sick and suffering. What is going on? I spoke just a little while ago with our Chief Medical Correspondent Doctor Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (On camera): We are in an area called Teto Soliel (ph), it is an area not too far from the hospital where we were yesterday. A hospital that was really, really scrambling to try to get resources, Wolf.

We were pleased to hear they put up the tents not too far away from that hospital, the white hospital tents being able to perform medical procedures, surgical procedures. What we just heard, though, Wolf, and this is of concern obviously to a lot of people here, is that the doctors and the nurses and the health care professionals are being told to pack up their medical supplies and try to get to a secure location. They are being told this by the United Nations. There is concern about riots not too far from here.

And this is part of the problem for them. Is they want to take care of lots of patients that are actually in the tents, and many more patients actually outside, but they simply being to told at this point to stop and to try to get to some secure location, Wolf.

BLITZER: What will happen with all of the patients and the people in desperate need of medical attention?

GUPTA: We have been asking the same question. The most immediate are the patients who are waiting. You may even see some of the patients over my shoulder here, Wolf, including a little baby boy over there. They are watching as the health care teams start to packing up their goods. I don't know. This is the same situation that we ran into yesterday, lots of patients waiting for care and hardly anyone to provide any care or any resources for them. Again, even as I am talking to you, there are cars behind me, they are starting to pack up their goods in preparation to leave. So, it is sort of going a little bit backwards. There was a lot of excitement about the fact that the tents were going up, but obviously, if all of the health care teams leave, along with the supplies, a big problem. I don't know if they will establish another location to try and care for people, they are going to try and secure it in some other way? But for right now some, at least for the time being, some bad news for the patients, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, the patients who can't be moved, the patients who are lying in bed, with broken legs and whatever, are they there by themselves?

GUPTA: Well, I don't know -- and I don't think they know right now exactly how they are going to handle the situation. I think they are literally talking to each other and trying to figure out exactly how this is going to work. They are told that some folks from the United Nations are going to come down here. I don't know if they are simply going to escort these doctors and nurses out of this area, to a more secure location, or if they are also going to try and set up a little bit of a force here, in this particular area, to try to take care of the patients. I think it is just unclear. Everyone is sort of deciding and discussing even as we speak right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, in other words there is some ominous indications that people are getting ready to get violent, is that what I am hearing from you, Sanjay?

GUPTA: That is exactly what we are being told, Wolf. In fact, that is coming from the United Nations to these doctors. That is where they are getting their directive. The specific language that was told to me is there are concerns about riots, and concerns specifically about the gunshots that they could hear off in the distance.

So, that is seems to be what is happening. But, again, this is all coming in as communication to these doctors and nurses, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are there enough doctors? Let's assume they could stay, are there enough doctors and nurses at this one little facility where you are right now, that could take care of the people?

GUPTA: Well, let me show you that there is actually five separate tents set up around here, and whether it is enough, the answer to that has to be no. But you do have a lot more personnel, exponentially more so than you did yesterday. A short distance from here where I was at a hospital where there was essentially one doctor trying to take care of hundreds of patients.

So the personnel seems to be here and the supplies were starting to increase in number as well, and pain medications, and antibiotics and gauze and dressings, even and types of materials to handle the orthopedic injuries. So that seemed to be improving, but the, again, this concern about the violence not far from here. Again, according to the U.N., they are telling these doctors the leave, and to find a more secure location until further notice.

BLITZER: I want you to be careful, Sanjay, as you always are.

One final question, I am getting a lot of e-mail from the medical professionals around the country, doctors and nurses, saying they would love to volunteer. They would love to get down to Haiti and help out as best they can. I s there an opportunity for these people who want to do so, to actually do it?

GUPTA: I think that there is a real need for all kinds of medical help, whether it is personnel or supplies there. There is difficulty that I know of actually getting -- even if you make it into the airport -- actually getting to some of these devastated locations, and getting to hospitals that could use help as well. The coordination has not been great as far as getting people actually to these areas.

So, while they, it is great, I think that people are helping, but it is going to be a little bit frustrating, at least for the next couple of days, until a more coordinated plan is in effect. Most of the folks we are seeing have established tents like this one come from the military organizations, or from large relief organizations that already had a presence on the ground here in Haiti. So they had some sort of coordination set up.


BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta speaking with me just a little while ago from Port-au-Prince. Important programming note, Sanjay's program, Sanjay Gupta, M.D., will be live 7:30 a.m., Saturday morning, 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Special live reports from Sanjay tomorrow morning and Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. here on CNN.

When we come back, we will have more -- we have a heartbreaking story of a father and mother who were told their daughter was OK, in Haiti, but things didn't turn out that way.


BLITZER: A truly heartbreaking emotional roller coaster for one Massachusetts' family. Their daughter is a student at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, who has been working with the poor in Haiti. And she has been missing since the quake. Then yesterday all of a sudden came word she had been rescued and was safe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's alive! They rescued her. She's alive! What a thrill.


BLITZER: The parents flew to Florida anticipating a reunion with their daughter, but when they landed, devastating news. They learned that the initial news was incorrect and their daughter had not been rescued, and was in fact still missing. That led to this emotional plea. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEN GENGEL, DAUTHER MISSING IN HAIT: I have hope. And I have a prepared statement that I would like to read.

We are Len and Sheryl Ann Gengel, with our sons Richie and Bernie, and good friend Father Bob Lard. Our daughter Britney went missing at the Hotel Montana in Haiti. We have found out room number 300. We were told yesterday by Lynn University that our daughter Britney was rescued on a helicopter, and was OK.

We flew down to Florida last night to meet with the kids who were supposed to be in late at night, and upon our arrival at Lynn University, we were greeted by the president and the vice president, and we were told that they had bad intelligence. And were very sorry, and Britney was still one of the four students missing along with the two professors.

They still don't have a reason why they were told that they had three of the missing girls. We appreciate all of the efforts of Lynn University, and just the wonderful thoughts and prayers of people across our whole country. We are so happy for the parents and the eight students who made their way out of the Hotel Montana in Haiti. And, we are so thankful to God for their safety.

One of the -- we are praying that our daughter, Britney, be one of the rescued today and be brought home safe and sound. And I am pleading, I am pleading to President Obama to please, please send more people to Haiti to rescue. As a father, President Obama, you must feel our pain in what we are going through. We were told that our children were safe, and rescued, and now we are told they are not. We need your help. We know you can do it. Father to father, I'm pleading with you to please, please get help and rescue those folks at Hotel Montana in Haiti.


BLITZER: Bringing in P.J. Crowley, he is the spokesman for the State Department. HE works for President Obama. Our heart goes out to that father, and mother, that family, P.J., but I want you to respond and tell him what the U.S. government is doing.

P.J. CROWLEY, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPT.: I'm from Massachusetts, Wolf, so this one hurts me even doubly, because it is a neighbor.

Clearly this is the kind of tragic news that we all hope to avoid in the coming days. We do have search and rescue teams on the ground from Florida, from Virginia, from California. They have been working around the clock for the last 48 hours to try to have better news than what that father has received.

We have 45,000 American citizens in Haiti. And for the most part we have not yet been able to account for the vast majority of them. We are on the edge of our seats just as this father, to see what happens in the coming days. We hope to have good news, but obviously, we are prepared for the worst as well. BLITZER: And you don't know, I assume you don't know if some of those search and rescue teams are over at the Hotel Montana?

CROWLEY: Well, there are a number of search and rescue teams not only from the United States, but from many countries that have been around and in the Hotel Montana, you know, searching for signs of life. I really can't describe what is happening on the ground at this moment, but that has been one of the sites that has been a priority since these teams have landed.

Our embassy in Port-au-Prince is trying to reach out to the American community to account for as many of our citizens as possible. Family and friends have contacted the State Department and out of say 600 files that we have opened so far, we have been able to resolve 1,000 of those cases.

At the same time, we are bringing out American citizens from Haiti on a daily basis, now over 1,000 have been returned to the United States. So this is a very, very difficult situation. We are still in that kind of life-saving, you know, golden period of time where we hope to be able to hear voices, and still be able to pull out, you know, victims from the rubble, but it is dire situation.

BLITZER: The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is going to spend the day tomorrow in Haiti. What does she hope to accomplish?

CROWLEY: Well, first and foremost she is going to go down to meet with President Preval to make sure we are doing everything we can for the health and welfare of the Haitian citizens, American citizens, and the citizens of other international partners who are there.

She wants to see first-hand, along with Doctor Rajiv Shah, our administrator of the USAID, how things are going in terms of movement of food, water, shelter, medical care out to the citizens of Haiti.

And then over time, we are going to work to stabilize Haiti. We know that Haiti is going to need lots of support and goods to sustain life there for weeks and months. And we are already focused on what it will take to help Haiti to rebuild in the aftermath of this tragedy. But this is something that we know it going to take many, many years, and intensive support from the international community and the United States.

BLITZER: P.J. Crowley is the spokesman at the State Department.

Good luck, P.J., wish our secretary of State our best, good luck to her on her mission.

CROWLEY: We will be praying for good news for that father and other families of the American citizens, and Haitian citizens, as we work through this on the next coming days.

BLITZER: Do me a favor and call immediately as soon as you hear good news about the daughter of this Mr. Gengel, from Massachusetts. If you get the good word, we want to alert our viewers. There is a outpouring of compassion. This is such a heartbreaking, but as you point out, there are so many of these stories playing out right now in Haiti.

CROWLEY: We will be hoping and praying for them all.

BLITZER: Thank you P.J., thanks so much.

Our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM will continue after this.


BLITZER: We will get back to the earthquake coverage in Haiti in a moment, but I want to check in with Fredricka Whitfield right now. She is monitoring a few other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Fred, what is going on?


Yemen says six Al Qaeda leaders were killed in an air strike today. Among them was the military commander of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and some of the groups most dangerous operatives. That group claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas.

And the growing possibility of a GOP upset in Massachusetts Tuesday, to fill the seat of Senator Ted Kennedy, is adding to the Democrat's sense of urgency about the health care debate. A new poll shows the race between Republican State Senator Scott Brown and the Democratic Candidate State Attorney General Martha Coakley, is now essentially deadlocked. A GOP victory could give the Senate Republicans enough votes to block health care reform.

An internal investigation into the Fort Hood killings finds several medical officers failed to use appropriate judgment and standards when overseeing the alleged shooter. The Pentagon report out today says the officers actions should be investigated right away. The report also found Major Nidal Hassan's top level security clearance was not properly investigated, Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred, thanks very much.

We will continue our coverage of the earthquake and the aftermath, in Haiti. It's now more than 72 hours since the quake struck. We'll have a story of survival right after this.


BLITZER: If you haven't done so yet, this is the moment to do it. "Impact Your World", go to There are links on how to help the people of Haiti. Do it and do it now.

In the midst of Haiti's unfathomable disaster there are individual stories of courage and calm, even among victims trapped by seemingly immovable slabs of concrete. CNN's Susan Candiotti witnessed efforts to free one young man pinned in the rubble.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Beneath the opening of a five-story school, a 21-year-old man is pinned on his side under a slab of cement. Alive after 46 hours. Someone passes him our microphone.

(On camera): What are you saying to yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Myself? As I am a Christian, I say, Jesus, you know, my life is in your hands.

CANDIOTTI (voice over): He says he is not in pain. A leg is stuck.

(On camera): Can you move at all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can move my right hand and my left foot.

CANDIOTTI: A brave victim and brave rescuers, his own family, risking their lives to free him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tried. They tried to help me.

CANDIOTTI: Grade schoolers and grade teachers were also inside when the building collapsed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me, with a teacher, is five inside. And me, just --I'm lucky how you say.

CANDIOTTI: But will his luck hold out?

(On camera): After about an hour and a half, a little more progress was made, these men using chisels and a blow torch have freed him up just a little more. But one of his hands is still caught, and while all of this is going on, this is a very dangerous situation.

(voice over): He screams in agony as a blow torch scorches his skin. Rescuers pass him water by the bucket to cool his burns.

(On camera): Please hang on, please hang on.


Applause as the young man is pulled from the wreckage, his hand mangled but still there. A glorious moment in a sea of despair. Among those still suffering, a woman on the other side of the building, a woman in pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christian! Magdunin (ph)!

CANDIOTTI: Her 12-year-old son Mark was also in the same school. Could his be one of those voices still crying out?


CANDIOTTI: Her only child remains missing. Susan Candiotti, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Just one story, one of thousands and thousands of stories as the struggle continues, and our coverage will continue after this.


BLITZER: I'll be back tomorrow 6:00 p.m. Eastern, with a live THE SITUATION ROOM on the crisis in Haiti; 6:00 p.m. Tomorrow, Saturday.

We leave you now with these images of this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're really shocked by this earthquake. We did not know what happened because we never experienced it before. We just stay and suddenly the house start to shake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was my father's house, so we lose it. My mother was --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we have somebody, somebody here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is some person inside the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't find him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, I think the parents, the mother's - they are going to take - I can't talk right now because I'm so in emotional right now.


GUPTA: As a doctor, as a journalist, that's traveled around the world, I've never seen anything quite like this. It's just astonishing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Crying, Speaking French)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only thing I can say is thank you very much and also thanking God for giving me life.