Survivors spent the night digging through the rubble with bare hands searching for loved ones after a after a huge earthquake rocked the Caribbean island nation of Haiti. Aid workers fear hundreds, even thousands, may have been killed when the disaster which measured 7.1 on the Richter scale, hit south of the Caribbean islands’s capital Port-au-Prince.Pictures from the scene showed schoolchildren staggering to get help amid people lying half buried in the streets.
Rachmani Domersant, an operations manager with the international relief charity Food for the Poor said: "The whole city is in darkness, you have thousands of people sitting in the streets, with nowhere to go,” he told Reuters news service. "I've seen seven to eight buildings, from office buildings to hotels and shopping stores, collapsed ... I think hundreds of casualties would be a serious understatement," he added.
The tremor hit just before 5pm (9.50pm in the UK), the US Geological Survey said. Phone lines to the country failed soon afterwards. This morning Port-au-Prince is said to be in total darkness with many people sleeping outside amid fear of more aftershocks. Hospitals, hotels, the World Bank and the presidential palace were among many buildings levelled by what is being called the largest quake to hit the area for 200 years. Several UN staff have been reported missing by the organisation. Describing the earthquake as a "catastrophe", Haiti's envoy to the US said the cost of the damage could run into billions.
A trauma hospital, a 60-bed centre and one of the only free surgical facilities in Port-au-Prince, was seriously damaged by the quake. Louis-Gerard Gilles, a doctor and former senator who went to help survivors, said the hospitals could not handle all the victims. "Haiti needs to pray. We all need to pray together," he said.
As the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti is ill equipped to cope with a disaster on this scale. Raymond Alcide Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to Washington, said: "I am appealing to the world, especially the United States, to do what they did for us back in 2008 when four hurricanes hit Haiti," he told Sky news. Many countries including the US, UK and Venezuela, are gearing up to send aid. US President Barack Obama said in a statement that his "thoughts and prayers" were with the people of Haiti.
At present there are two SOS Children's Villages in Haiti, two SOS Youth Homes, two SOSSchools, one SOS Vocational Training Centre and four SOS Social Centres. We will bring you news from our Children's Villages as soon as we can.