The international Red Cross and other aid groups prepared Wednesday for a major disaster relief effort in Haiti after a powerful earthquake caused massive destruction in the capital.
Finding and rescuing survivors will be a priority, and aid workers will also help hospitals cope with casualties and establish clean water sources, ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno said.
The magnitude 7.0 quake Tuesday caused "massive destruction in all the main neighborhoods" of Port-au-Prince, Schorno told The Associated Press. "Haitian Red Cross staff are trying to do what they can but are completely overwhelmed, so there's no structured response at this point."
The United Nations, which has its humanitarian agencies based in Geneva, is also sending aid teams to the impoverished Caribbean nation.
U.N. officials are struggling to assess the scale of the disaster amid badly damaged communication networks, said Elizabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the global body's humanitarian office. Byrs said the U.N. was working with independent aid agency Telecoms Sans Frontieres to immediately get phone lines working again _ a key element in organizing relief efforts.
As images of Haiti flooded news channels worldwide, Britain, France, Mexico, Venezuela, China and Taiwan were among those pledging to send rescue and relief teams to the country. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said from Honolulu that the United States was offering full assistance _ civilian and military.
World Vision, which has 400 staff in Haiti, said it would release aid supplies it had originally brought in for hurricane relief. Low-lying areas of Port-au-Prince, including the Cite Soleil slum, appeared to be hit worse than neighborhoods higher up on hills, World Vision spokesman Casey Calamusa.
He said one of his colleagues in Haiti described the moment the quake hit as "like a truck had run into her building."