In just one terrifying minute the earth convulsed on Tuesday in Haiti, flattening buildings and casually tossing chunks of twisted metal and concrete into the air.
Thousands fled sobbing in terror and panic onto the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince, seeking to escape the fury of the 7.0 earthquake.
A five-story U.N. headquarters building was also brought down by Tuesday’s quake, the most powerful to hit Haiti in more than 200 years according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“The center of Port-au-Prince has been destroyed, it’s a catastrophe,” wailed Pierre, covered in dust, and so shocked he could hardly speak as he surveyed the devastation around him, having walked several kilometers to find his house.
A witnesses reported people screaming “Jesus, Jesus” running into the streets as offices, hotels and houses collapsed.
“The whole city is in darkness. You have thousands of people sitting in the streets with nowhere to go,” said Rachmani Domersant, an operations manager with the Food for the Poor charity. “There are people running, crying, screaming.”
“The hospitals cannot handle all these victims,” Dr. Louis-Gerard Gilles, a former senator, said as he helped survivors.
“Haiti needs to pray. We all need to pray together.”
United Nations peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said that more than 100 people are missing in the rubble of the collapsed U.N. headquarters building in Haiti, including the mission chief. Secretary General Ban-ki-moon called it humanitarian crisis.
Photos in twitter
Heart-rending photos from quake-ravaged Haiti and rallying cries for relief spread swiftly on Twitter and Facebook as the microblogging service once again became a key communications tool during disaster.
“The destruction was massive,” a Twitter user wrote in Spanish in an exchange beneath one of a set of TwitPic photos taken by local journalist Carel Pedre with a mobile phone camera in Haiti.