earthquake-ravaged capital Thursday as residents awoke for a second
morning to a battered landscape of toppled buildings and legions of
dead and injured, with many people still unaccounted for in the debris.
Three French planes brought in supplies and a mobile
hospital, the news agency reported, and British relief workers arrived
next door in the
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was en route to
also has dispatched the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship, with
2,000 members of a Marine expeditionary force aboard and medical
facilities that will allow it to serve as a floating hospital. It also
has ordered two other amphibious vessels to set sail.
Secretary of State
trip to help steer U.S. relief efforts, said in television interviews
Thursday morning that U.S. forces were moving as quickly as possible to
help quake victims and that the next 24 hours would be “critical” to
saving people. Clinton said the immediate goals were to treat the
injured and provide food, water and shelter.
“It’s a devastating situation,” she told
Clinton said in a separate interview that
was prepared to provide help over the long term. She said there was no
reliable estimate of casualties yet but that the toll would be in the
“tens of thousands.”
By some estimates, 3 million people were affected by the earthquake, roughly a third of the population of the impoverished
On Wednesday, President
Rescuers, often equipped with little more than their
hands, hunted for survivors amid a grim tableau of destruction. Entire
hillsides of homes appeared to have tumbled, while in other areas
structures stood unaffected next to piles of dusty debris. Some
buildings lay in pancake-like concrete heaps.
Relief workers said it could take a day or two to know how many of
Homeless or fearful survivors took shelter under
tarps on the grounds outside the prime minister’s office and elsewhere
across the capital. As night fell, crowds filled downtown streets.
People sought open-air spots to spend the night, either because they
were afraid to be indoors or had no home left.
The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,
is a place where misery is an everyday condition, and disasters — of
both the natural and man-caused variety — are not uncommon. At best,
the government has made only halting progress toward improving the
lives of its citizens. The quake, said to be the strongest in the
country in 200 years, caused death and destruction on a whole new scale.
In a predominantly Catholic country that already
relied heavily on U.N. relief, the dead were reported to include the
and at least 16 U.N. personnel, possibly including the head of the U.N.
mission. Both the hotel that served as U.N. headquarters and the city’s
main cathedral were heavily damaged, as were the Parliament building,
schools, hospitals and other hotels.
Some looting was reported, and about 3,000 police officers and international peacekeepers were trying to maintain security.
U.S. officials said most of the damage appeared to be concentrated around
In the aftermath of the quake, entire big-box
apartment blocks had collapsed along roads carved into the hills.
Rubble had blown out onto the roads. Next to the debris lay bodies,
their faces covered with sheets.
At two badly damaged hospitals in the capital Wednesday, there were virtually no doctors or medical workers in sight.
including that of a woman whose white hair showed above the sheet
covering her, with a small child next to her.
But behind the compound’s iron doors, the scene was
worse: people dead and apparently dying on the ground as their
relatives stood by helplessly, watching them. Some of the injured wept
in pain; others lay silently.
One man dragged visitors to see his mother, who lay
on her back wearing only a light yellow flowered robe. She was on the
street just outside the hospital gate, one leg clearly broken.
“I don’t know what to do,” another man lamented as
he dragged visitors over to look at his cousin, who lay on the ground
covered only with a towel.
Many of those on the ground had been hooked up to IVs from the hospital, but apparently by their own relatives.
President Obama called the earthquake a “cruel and incomprehensible tragedy” and promised that
“This is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity we all share,” Obama said in televised remarks from the
The U.S. military deployed a 30-member team on Wednesday to assess the damage and help manage the response.
had gathered at the airport to be evacuated. Officials said they had
heard no reports so far of widespread casualties among U.S. citizens.
Air Force Gen.
commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said the military’s immediate
goals were to help restore telecommunications and get the airport up
and running. The control tower was heavily damaged, and many commercial
flights were canceled.
on Wednesday night, officials said. It includes paramedics, structural
engineers, search dogs, physicians and firefighters trained in using
sophisticated equipment to find and free people trapped in collapsed
were likely to face an increased risk of dengue fever, malaria and
measles. She also warned that the lack of healthcare could lead to
complications among the injured.
The body of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot was found in the ruins of his office on Wednesday, said the Rev.
French Foreign Minister
Troops from the
mostly Brazilian, worked through the night to try to reach those
trapped in the hotel. Rescuers recovered several bodies and seriously
Obama said he had directed his administration “to respond with a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives.”
“We do not have the logistical or organizational
capacity right now to handle a lot of things, even if we need those
things,” he said. “What we need now is food, water, supplies for first
aid and shelter.”
(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.