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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Major Earthquake Hits Haiti

Aired January 12, 2010 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of the situation in Haiti, where as I said, we're getting some new pictures in but I want to hand off our breaking news coverage to Jessica Yellin right now so I can get to the airport to try to get a flight down to Haiti. I hope to be reporting live from the ground tomorrow.

Jessica will continue throughout this hour with the latest developments.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And we wish you safe travels, Anderson.

COOPER: Thanks.

YELLIN: Good trip.

All right.

And to our viewers at home and around the world, we continue our breaking news on the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti today. It measured 7.0 and it's believed to be the largest and most powerful earthquake to have ever hit the Caribbean.

From eyewitness accounts, there is widespread devastation. Heavy damage is being reported in Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital. The president's palace has been damaged, along with many other buildings and homes. And a U.N. official tells us the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission outside Port-au-Prince has collapsed.

There are also reports of dead bodies and fears of mass casualties. And the AP tonight says two Americans are believed to be trapped in the rubble.

Raymond Joseph, the Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. told CNN, quote, "The only thing I can do now is pray and hope for the best. The State Department has activated a disaster response plan and is expecting a serious loss of life.

President Obama also issued a statement saying his thoughts and prayers go to those who have been affected.

And joining us now, also, we believe on the phone with us, is Nan Buzard she is here -- we have her on camera -- Nan Buzard, the Senior Director for International Disaster Response for the Red Cross. She joins us now from Washington.

Nan, thank you for coming in and start us off with the basics. How bad is this earthquake?

NAN BUZARD, INTERNATIONAL DISASTER RESPONSE, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, first thanks for having us on the air with you.

The Red Cross, like everyone else, is trying to determine the extent of damages. It's too early to tell but you can see that cloud that you have right now that you're showing of dust from a collapsed building is extraordinary. It's deep, it's wide. You see the fear on people's faces.

This is going to be, I think, a catastrophic disaster. We don't have any facts or figures yet.

Tomorrow as dawn breaks, you're going to see a lot more coverage. We're going to have helicopters out there. Anderson will probably be on the ground or on his way. A lot more information will be coming in.

But right now it's dark. Electricity is out. Phones are out. It's chaos and confusion, panic, fear and grief on the ground.

YELLIN: It's a terrifying picture you paint. Can you give us a sense from your past experience what concerns you most right now?

BUZARD: Well the Red Cross responds to disasters around the world constantly. We've just finished the West Sumatra earthquake that just happened a month ago. We've had China, we certainly had Pakistan, the tsunami.

The thing that's so terrifying about earthquakes is that you don't know they're going to happen. And as we've all talked about, Haiti is not someplace that has had large earthquakes before.

In South America, Central America, Indonesia, we prepare for earthquakes; there is even some earthquake warnings. That didn't happen in Haiti.

So for these people, it was late in the day. Dusk was just coming in. And all of a sudden the ground literally shakes and opens up beneath you. The terror for people is quite extraordinary and there's no one to call. You can't get through.

Haiti is not a state that has much of an emergency response system. The infrastructure is very weak. So people are going to rely on each other. They're going to do a great job.

But what concerns us is one, search and rescue. The first 24 to 48 hours, is going to take time to get rescue teams in there. Most of the work is going to be done by locals. They're going to have heavy earth-moving or concrete-moving equipment.

So actually, extracting people out of the debris is going to be a big struggle. That's a very terrifying thing to do. When you hear people screaming; when you hear people moaning, when the family and the neighborhood is surrounding you trying to dig you out from that debris and you can't move and you can't get out fast is terrifying for people.

So search and rescue is a huge issue.

YELLIN: It's also upsetting to those of us in the United States who can barely reach people in Haiti if we try using the phone, there is no contact. So what can folks here in the U.S. do best to help people right now?

BUZARD: Well, certainly the State Department has set up a number. You had it up on your screen earlier for people to call if they have American citizens that are in Haiti and they want to try to -- to find them. The American Red Cross will try to work with the rest of the Red Cross movement to see if we can help Haitians here in the United States find other Haitians in Haiti. But it'll take a while to get that organized.

And then, of course, there's going to be a huge response and recovery effort. And we will be responding. We have staff that's actually on the ground there now working in the search and rescue. We have staff that are on planes going tomorrow. We assume they're going to get in. We haven't heard that the airport is closed and we have relief supplies around the Caribbean ready to come in.

So we will be doing water-trucking, shelter, emergency medical first-aid; a whole range of things that people need right on the ground, the Red Cross along with other relief agencies.

YELLIN: All right, Nan. And I know we will be staying in touch with you in the days and weeks to come. Thank you so much for your work on behalf of the Haitians.

BUZARD: Thank you.

YELLIN: All right, Nan Buzard with the International Red Cross.

Daylight is still hours away in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere reeling tonight from a devastating blow.

A short time ago, Anderson spoke to Ian Rogers who is on the ground in Port-au-Prince. He is the Senior Emergency Adviser for "Save the Children".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Ian, at this point, it's obviously night time in Port- au-Prince. What are you hearing around you and what have you seen?

IAN ROGERS, EMERGENCY ADVISER, SAVE THE CHILDREN IN PORT-AU- PRINCE: Like obviously, before -- before night, we were seeing the devastation that is surrounding where we are at the moment. We're in quite a high up area within Port-au-Prince. A lot of buildings have fallen and obviously slid-off the mountain side. What we're hearing now is quite a mixture of sounds. Some of it is obviously the distress and concern and grief of people, mixed with cheering where obviously people are being pulled out of the rubble and saved. So it's quite a surreal sound that is surrounding currently where our office is at this time.

COOPER: It's got to be, I mean, surreal and haunting, both the cries of joy and cries of pain.

ROGERS: That's right. I mean, obviously, you know, it is this mixed emotion where there is obviously, you know, you are hearing the grief of people as they realize they've lost people, they can't find their children. Their children and families have been separated in the rubble.

But then again, you suddenly hear these cries come out of, from a lot of different people obviously. People who are rescuing other people from the rubble as somebody comes out alive. And they're managing to free somebody.

COOPER: You said you're in a higher area. Are you in Petionville?

ROGERS: That's correct, yes that's where I am.

COOPER: Ok and for those who don't know, Petionville is an area, a kind of a high area in Haiti; a lot of nice houses and nice properties. That's where some of the hotels are. And you said there is widespread devastation in that area.

ROGERS: That's correct. I mean, at the moment, the situation is obviously dark and we can't carry out any assessments right this second. But what we're worrying about in the morning is the fact that most of the roads have either collapsed or been currently covered in rubble.

We've got a back-up plan at the moment. Thankfully we've got some motorcycles on hand which we've now prepped this evening so that first thing in the morning, we'll be able to go out and do our assessments to see what (INAUDIBLE) are going to be there and regretfully, I suspect there's going to be significant needs. There's going to be a large loss of life and there's going to be obviously, significant injury.

COOPER: Another concern is that in Haiti and even around Port- au-Prince, a lot of the mountain sides are completely barren of trees. People have cut down the trees in order for firewood to make charcoal and the like and so you don't have any shrubbery or trees that can prevent the mud on these mountains from just cascading down.

So it is likely and I guess this is partially why some of the roads are blocked, that you're just going to see mountains, the sides of mountains coming down. Is that correct?

ROGERS: That's -- I think you're 100 percent correct in your assessment. Obviously the deforestation and the environmental degradation that has occurred in Haiti over these years for people foraging for firewood and to build structures due to the level of poverty here, this is going to cause significant problems to be able to do that.

To be able to -- we'll see that the situation has got to be a major -- exacerbated even further.

COOPER: Are you hearing any, at this point at night, any heavy machinery? Anything that sounds like it is from the government or any bulldozers or anything involved in rescue efforts, or is it all very much piecemeal, very -- sort of local communities trying to help one another?

ROGERS: No. Unfortunately, I haven't heard. People travel down in this area since the earthquake. Certainly our staff who are in other parts of the city aren't able to get back up to where we are.

And so it is possible to travel off in the hills. But in this area, currently it's not possible to get any heavy lift equipment in. The only heavy equipment I've seen is that there has been helicopter activity, which I understand is focusing on the evacuation of one hotel which has been completely destroyed and damaged.

COOPER: Is that the Montana hotel?

ROGERS: That's -- I believe so. That's correct. Obviously, I'm not there at the moment. But that is the information we are receiving from our staff who at the U.N. compound and in the location.

COOPER: I've heard other reports about the Montana as well. Again, we have not been able to independently verify any of those reports. But if that is true, the Montana Hotel, for those who don't know is a major hotel in Port-au-Prince; one of the nicest hotels, a place where many U.N. workers and others stay.

Again, there is a lot to report about what is happening.

Ian Rogers, I appreciate you talking about what you have seen because at this point, that is about all we can go on. What individuals have seen and hearing and what they are hearing and seeing right around them because there are no fatality reports at this stage. We don't have a sense of the scale of this. But there's a lot of concern right now about what we are going to find when daybreak comes in.

Ian Rogers, I appreciate your time. We'll be checking in with you throughout the next several days.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: All right. And there is a very large Haitian community right here in New York. The city's police commissioner, Ray Kelly, was just in Haiti last week working with the country's local law enforcement. And Commissioner Kelly joins us now on the phone.

Commissioner Kelly, first, thanks for being with us. You were there just last week. What are your thoughts right now?

RAYMOND KELLY, POLICE COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK (via telephone): Well, of course, a little bit of shock and I have so much feeling for the Haitian people. The place is desperate as you know. I mean, it's sort of on permanent critical condition.

An earthquake, of course, is so bad in and of itself. But the preexisting conditions in the Haiti make it so much worse.

All of the things that you've been talking about, the erosion from -- caused by those four hurricanes that they had two years ago is still very much in evidence. The buildings, the building code is very lax and we were talking about that. We left there on Saturday and we had those conversations of just how some of these buildings could possibly be approved or be built.

So we know that there has to be a tremendous loss of life as a result of buildings collapsing. Communication and medical support are marginal at best. Every day and the best of days, there are power blackouts. So of course, that's got to be a major factor in doing any sort of relief or rescue effort.

Poverty is endemic but as Anderson said, he has obviously been there. Their greatest asset is the people. They are tough, they are resolute, they are inspirational. And somehow they seem to survive. But it is a very desperate situation that they're in now.

YELLIN: When you think about the people right now and in addition to the medical emergencies they must be suffering so many people, there's also the possibility of violence. This is a country, as you point out, that has been enormously unstable politically. There have been riots during political unrest.

What do you imagine based on what you saw when you were there, is the stability or the possibility of crime right now?

KELLY: Actually, the level of violence has gone down. And I don't think you'll see it. I think you'll see people pitching in, working with each other. I don't think it'll be a factor. I think obviously, looting may be an issue. People are so poor, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. You may have some looting. But I don't think you'll see any widespread violence.

The police force has improved significantly. That was the reason that we were there, to do a training assessment to see what they needed and I think they've come a long way.

I tell you one thing I did not see was any fire department. I don't think they -- there is any entity like that. There no -- seems to be no rescue capability anywhere in Port-au-Prince.

YELLIN: No first responder capabilities?

KELLY: To the best of my knowledge, no. And I've spent six months there in the mid-1990s. And that was the situation then. And I've been back several times and I just don't believe they have any sort of first responder capability of any significance.

They have a small ambulance corps. But if fire breaks out, which of course is a possibility, I think they're in deep trouble.

YELLIN: That just underscores the fact that they really need the world's help.

And tonight Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement that the families of about 125,000 New Yorkers actually hailed from Haiti. And there of course, thousands of more people travel between Haiti and New York regularly.

How do you expect New York City will be responding?

KELLY: Oh, I think there'll be a tremendous response on the part of the city. Obviously, we need some direction on exactly on what to do but as the mayor said, well over 100,000 Haitians in New York City. It's a strong cohesive community.

So I think you'll see them certainly responding and others as well. And I think the Caribbean community will come together in New York City. They need help. Obviously, we just have to determine exactly what it is but ultimately it'll get down to money. So we'll need the (INAUDIBLE) resources to help Haiti in this time of need.

YELLIN: All right. New York City Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly thank you so much for joining us.

KELLY: Thank you.

YELLIN: And our breaking news coverage of the earthquake in Haiti continues after this break.

Coming up, we'll talk to an American whose in-laws arrived in Haiti today to do missionary work. He is concerned about them, not surprisingly. His story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: And we're back now with more breaking news.

It's a very difficult night in Haiti. The Caribbean country rocked by a massive 7.0 earthquake. Then hit again and again by more than a dozen aftershocks.

Let's get the very latest now on the quake from meteorologist, Chad Myers. Chad, you've been follow this all day. It's been reported, there have already been at least seven aftershocks above a magnitude 5. I've lived through a magnitude 5 earthquake. Those are substantial just on their own.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right, exactly. The word aftershock makes it kind of seem insignificant. But the biggest one has been 5.9. And a 5.9 would be an earthquake on any other given day. But because that right there was a 7.0, everything else is called an aftershock unless it's bigger but they haven't been. Here's Port-au-Prince right there, 17 different ones so far. All the red ones you see here, those are just in the last hour.

So what's the problem? Well, the big earthquake shook the buildings and then vibrated them to a pulp. And now these smaller earthquakes are taking the buildings down even as people are trying to get in and out of the way.

Let's take you here to what's going. Why was this such a bad earthquake? Because it was only six miles underground, six miles, compared to a couple of hundred miles, where the -- the shock wouldn't be so good or so big by the time it got to the surface. At six miles, there was no relief at all.

This thing hit the earth and it hit at 7.0. And with it being only so deep, it really did shake everything there.

Here's what we've been looking at and I know, Anderson, is trying to get on an airplane. There have been no airplanes in or out of Haiti in the past few hours. The last plane out was an American Airlines flight to Miami. Before that there was one flight to Montreal. That was the last two flights out of that country.

You go to iReport, you can really see some amazing pictures, amazing in a good way and a certainly in a bad way. Here is something here.

This was part of the city street. Here you see the two story buildings, whatever that was, gone. There is the palace right there, completely collapsed. I'm going to go by three because it's quite disturbing; more of the pan caking of the buildings here.

Back to that number one. People just trying to dig through and dig through these buildings. You can see the concrete that has just come down. And so people are literally trapped in these buildings and they are going to be throughout the night. Heavy machinery just, you know, it is so far away.

It's going to take a long time for everybody to finally get back and get this thing together.

I think the casualty numbers here will certainly be in the thousands, if not more. You have two billion people in the way of a very large magnitude 7.0 only six miles deep in the earth and the shaking was tremendous.

And then you have all these people building homes on cliff sides, literally and those homes did slide off along with all the dirt as well. Most of the roads in and out of this little peninsula here are completely shut down. Completely shut off, Jessica, because all of the dirt and all the rocks from above have slid down to close those roads. So you can't even get to save the people because there's just no way to get there.

YELLIN: Such a chilling -- such a chilling story. Thank you Chad for keeping us clear on what's happening with us all night. MYERS: Yes.

YELLIN: Joining me now with a very upsetting story is Emily Smack, she is the executive director of the Haitian Ministries for the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut. Emily, we understand that you have some information about the people you know who happen to be trapped in Haiti.

EMILY SMACK, HAITIAN MINISTRIES FOR DIOCESE OF NORWICH, CONNECTICUT (via telephone): Yes. We basically operate our mission house in Petionville, Haiti -- Norwich Mission House. And we got word late this afternoon that there had been at least a partial collapse of our mission house.

And our acting director and one of our consultants were trapped in the first floor office. And as far as we know, they're still there. We haven't heard any news since about 8:00 tonight.

YELLIN: All right, can you describe for us a little bit about where the mission house is? And what it was built like? Was it a small building?

SMACK: No. The mission house actually is really a very substantial home. It was a private home before we took it over for our operations. We operate basically the mission house with all of our activities out of the house, as well as accepting travelers. So it's a guest house of sorts.

So we have rooms for 14 to 15 guests at any given time. Thank goodness, we did not have a full house of guests at the time. We only had one and I'm not sure whether he was in the house or out of the house. We don't have that word whether he was back to the house from being out all day or not.

So we are a very substantial house, you know, not the typical concrete block home or tin shacks that is, you know, kind of all around us.

YELLIN: And your last -- go ahead.

SMACK: No, that's ok.

YELLIN: Your last contact with your people there, was it there -- was it your sense some of them were injured or were there any, were there any possibility that something worse has happened?

SMACK: Well, we had a partner in Jeremy, Haiti, which is a distance from Port-au-Prince who was able to Skype into the mission house to see if everyone was ok. And they were the ones basically that alerted us, that they had contacted Gillian and that Gillian had said she and Chuck were in the small office in the house. And that the building had collapsed around them and they were in there. And they both could not get out.

Jill said she had some type of a leg injury. And didn't state about anything specific about Chuck other than neither one of them, it appeared that they were pinned under wreckage.

YELLIN: Did they give you any sense of what they had heard and seen?

SMACK: No. I think at that point, the two of them, particularly Jill, you know, just said that it just happened ever so quickly, that they literally didn't have time to react and get out of the house.

I remember five years ago, I was in Haiti and there was a small earthquake and we were outside and it was terrifying. You know, it wasn't a five and probably was only a 3 point something. It was the first time in all the years I've been going to Haiti that I ever experienced it.

And I remember, you know, we let out the word for everyone to get out of the house and come outside. But the word that Devin (ph) gave us when she called was that she said there literally was no time to react.

YELLIN: I'm curious because we have not heard anyone -- in all the interviews we've done -- we haven't heard anybody talk about seeing any kind of organized rescue or organized response. You say you were in Haiti during a much smaller earthquake, did you see any kind of capability to respond?

SMACK: No. I think what you have to understand is that Haiti really does not have the ability on its own to react to this level of devastation. You know, you take the hurricanes just a few years, two years ago. It took an international effort and, you know, a tremendous amount of support from the U.N. that was there to get them through that.

Last year there was a school collapse in Haiti, you know. You covered it. And they had to bring equipment in from other countries. Haiti has so little resource, you know, I think we don't think of it as being such a poor country because it's so close to our shores. But it's the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and lacks resources.

So I can't imagine how people are going to react...

YELLIN: All right...

SMACK: ... to this level of devastation.

YELLIN: Emily thank you so much for your time; our heart and thoughts are with you and the people with your organization who are trapped there. We wish them and you the best.

SMACK: Ok. Thank you very much.

YELLIN: Thank you, Emily Smack, Executive Director of the Diocese of Norwich.

Up next, we will talk to more people with friends and relatives in Haiti and waiting for word about their loved ones. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: If you're just joining us, we are following breaking news out of Haiti. The largest most powerful earthquake in the region's history has crippled the country measuring 7.0. Its epicenter was just a few miles outside the capital, Port-au-Prince.

There are reports tonight of toppled buildings, dead bodies and trapped victims screaming for help. One aid worker told the AP he fears there may be thousands of people dead. And look at these images of the presidential palace in Haiti left in ruins. And now, at least two Americans believed to be among those trapped in the wreckage in Haiti.

Official from the Haitian Ministries for the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, believe two of their staff are trapped in their mission home. Right now, this is a very fluid situation and we will continue to bring you the very latest information as it comes in.

And of course, there are many people in the U.S. and around the world who are desperately trying to contact loved ones in Haiti.

Brian Corey's in-laws landed in Port-au-Prince this very morning. Right now, they are in Haiti to do missionary work for their church. And I spoke to Brian just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Brian Corey thank you for joining us. Tell us first of all, why are your in-laws in Haiti and you've spoken with them. How are they?

BRIAN COREY, IN-LAWS IN HAITI (via telephone): They are currently safe and doing well. They left early this morning along with four other folks from our church for a missions trip to Haiti to take some medical supplies and some food and so forth to a group there.

But I've been corresponding since about -- about 4:00 with them just through text messaging as to their whereabouts and their safety.

YELLIN: So you've only been using text messages. No phone calls have worked?

COREY: That is correct.

YELLIN: What have they told you about the scene? What have they actually seen on the ground in Haiti?

COREY: My first -- my text message was about four o'clock when they arrived at Port-au-Prince. They said everybody was safe.

And then we received another text message about 5:33 stating that there had been an earthquake; that they were safe but they were en route with the truck to the mission's clinic. And while driving on the road, they saw -- in their words, utter devastation. They saw some dead bodies lying in the road and then a lot of rubble on the road as well.

YELLIN: Pictures we're seeing are really devastating.

Can you describe from what you're father-in-law has told you? A little bit more about the area where they were actually doing their work?

COREY: They are in just on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Their work is basically comprised of a missions clinic. They arrived at the missions clinic to find that pretty much, it was full of folks there with a lot of needs. There were folks with a lot of injuries.

Basically, as soon as they got there, part of the clinic had fallen down. There were some structural issues. As soon as they got there, they went right to work sewing folks up, you know bandaging and taking care of the folks there and using some of the medical supplies that they had brought to Haiti with them.

YELLIN: Their mission, incredibly well-timed to help the people of Haiti -- they couldn't have known, obviously. Your mother-in-law also, we understand, has been posting these pictures on Facebook and also communicating with you through Facebook?

COREY: Yes, she's been communicating with us and of course, our friends and our church family here at Gateway and just trying to stay in touch the best that she can.

YELLIN: And your sense from -- you know your folks. How are they emotionally? Are you worried about them?

COREY: Certainly we are worried about safety obviously. You know we trust the Lord knows what's going on but as far as them, they're with some folks that live in Haiti and they're with some folks that have been there a dozen or two time so they know the place well. They've got some resources there. And so I think they're doing as well as can be expected.

YELLEN: All right. Well, we wish them well. We thank you for calling in to us. And we hope they stay safe in Haiti these next days.

COREY: Thank you so much.

YELLIN: Brian Corey, thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Brian Corey just one of thousands of Americans with loved ones in Haiti they're worried about tonight.

With the search on for survivors, up next, how big is the risk of more aftershocks? There have already been at least a dozen leaving everyone on edge. We'll talk with scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Tonight, total chaos in Haiti. We now have some new disturbing pictures to show you; really dramatic images, as you can see. We see people being pulled from the rubble.

A catastrophic earthquake has left the tiny country in tatters. Hundreds, even thousands feared dead.

Joining us right now, Michael Blanpied, a specialist in earthquake hazards with the U.S. Geological Survey; he can give as you little more insight into what earthquakes like this can do.

Dr. Blanpied, thank you for being with us. There have already been at least 13 aftershocks in Haiti. How much more could this region face?

MICHAEL BLANPIED, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: A large earthquake like this is going to generate a number of aftershocks. By the count on our Web site, usgs.gov, we're already up to 24 and that number is sure to climb over the coming hours and days.

YELLIN: Twenty-four aftershocks?

BLANPIED: Aftershocks of at least a magnitude of 4.5; the largest of those occurred just minutes after the first earthquake and that was a magnitude 5.9 that was widely felt as well.

YELLIN: Wow. So Is Haiti in an area that's prone to severe earthquakes? We don't hear about a lot of earthquakes there.

BLANPIED: In fact it is. It has been over a century since an earthquake of this severity has hit the island. The island on which Haiti sits is really being squeezed and sheared between two big tectonic plates. And as a consequence, there are faults that run across the island and occasionally do have very large earthquakes. Over the last 500 years, there have probably been ten or a dozen large earthquakes to strike the island.

YELLIN: I happened to have been in touch with a friend who has just landed in the Dominican Republic today and he says he didn't feel anything when he was there. And yet, Haiti seems to be devastated.

Do you have any sense how many people could have been affected?

BLANPIED: Yes, by our estimate, based on where the earthquake was located, its size and its nearness to the population, our estimate is that about 3 million people were subjected to strong to severe shaking. And of course, we know the building style is not terrific in the area. And it's a very densely populated part of the island so that's not very good news.

YELLIN: Right. And we're showing pictures that just showed the rubble and devastation there that just proves how badly destroyed those buildings may have been. 3 million people, a lot of people; so what kind of response do you think is needed now?

BLANPIED: Absolutely this is a need for an international response. Of course, there is the humanitarian need and then there's going to be the need for advice and assistance on how to rebuild the area to make, hopefully, the island of Haiti more resistant to earthquakes when they eventually happen again to make sure this disaster doesn't get repeated.

YELLIN: You know, right after the earthquake hit, there were tsunami warnings issued and then they were canceled. So were they -- was the island really in danger of a tsunami for a while there?

BLANPIED: In the first couple minutes after a big earthquake, a very rapid assessment is done to determine about where the earthquake was and whether it was likely that it could have caused a tsunami. It was determined within a few minutes after that that the earthquake definitely did occur on land and not underneath the sea. And therefore, it would not be the type to cause a tsunami. That's perhaps the only good thing that can be said about this earthquake is that it did not cause a tsunami.

YELLIN: Again, how much longer is the island in danger of suffering more aftershocks?

BLANPIED: I would say certainly within days and perhaps weeks. The trouble, of course, now is that this urban area has been badly damaged, many damaged structures and ongoing efforts to extract injured folks and so forth. When these aftershocks occur, they caused more shaking which can bring down a damaged building or cause danger for those who are attempting to be the rescuers.

So really, the folks in the region are going to need to be prepared and ready for strong shaking to really come at any time during this rescue phase of the earthquake.

YELLIN: So upsetting. All right. Dr. Michael Blanpied with the U.S. Geological Survey; thanks for being with us.

BLANPIED: Welcome.

YELLIN: Still ahead, more on Haiti and the aftermath of today's earthquake. But first, Tom Foreman joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- hi Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Jessica. An explosive material spill closes North Carolina Port. Morehead city officials took that precautionary measure after nine drums of PETN were punctured by a forklift. PETN is a highly explosive compound and one of the components used by the alleged Christmas day bomber.

The Somali teen charged in last spring's Maersk Alabama hijacking is now accused of attacks on two other ships. Federal prosecutors today charged the teen with boarding two vessels and holding the crews at gunpoint last March and April. One of those vessels is still being held hostage. The 18-year-old has pleaded not guilty. Time to polish that resume: Starwood Hotels today announcing the creation of 12,000 new jobs, at least half in the U.S. Target cities include New York City, Austin, Texas, and Biloxi, Mississippi, as well.

In Hollywood, Conan O'Brien says "no thanks" to NBC. In a statement today, the host rejected the network's attempt to push his time slot a half-hour, making room for Jay Leno's return to late night. O'Brien said he hoped that he and NBC could resolve the issue quickly but left his options open.

To Washington where two hairstylists testified today in the grand jury investigation involving that couple who crashed the White House state dinner. The stylists are sharing the conversations they had with Tareq and Michaele Salahi last November when they spent hours at the salon getting ready for the party. Federal investigators are looking into whether the Salahis made false statements to the Secret Service which would be a felony which could mean up to five years in prison -- Jessica.

Thank you. Thank you, Tom. I happen to know that's an excellent salon. Thanks for joining us.

All right. Join the live chat happening now at ac360.com.

And much more on the breaking story in Haiti tonight. We will go back to tom foreman who will have a quick download on Haiti, past and present.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: We're back now with more breaking news out of Haiti. The Caribbean country rocked by a 7.0 earthquake, then hit again and again by more than a dozen aftershocks. The U.S. Geological Survey saying maybe as many as 24 aftershocks have already hit the island country.

An American airlines flight that was the last to leave Haiti after the earthquake has landed in Florida. Here's how one man on board described the experience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a big shake. We actually thought it was something that hit the building. It turned out it was an earthquake. And it was only after the ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: You imagine how happy they were to take off. Today's devastating quake is the latest in a long history of hardships Haiti has endured.

Tom Foreman joins us now with a quick download on the country -- Haiti 101. Tom, give us a lay of the land, how large is Haiti, where are the people located? FOREMAN: You know, this is all important, Jessica, because of everything you've said tonight. If you moved down here past the United States, past Florida, Bahamas, Cuba, you get down here to Haiti between the Dominican Republic and the island of Jamaica over here.

And I say it is important because what we're talking about is layers of problems. The first one is what we might refer to as the human geography of this place. More than 9 million people in an area that's relatively small here; 47 percent of them live in cities or towns which means they're very susceptible to the effects of the earthquake. And they have about a 53 percent literacy rate.

I want to move in a little bit closer and look at the actual physical geography of the countryside here because that's another layer that has to be considered as people look at this. This is where the epicenter was. If we tilt this and move in a little bit, you can see an inherent problem.

This is a mountainous area, just smaller than Maryland. It's earthquake and hurricane-prone which has always been a problem here. The mountainsides here have often been denuded of plants, the harvest there, which made it also prone to mudslides, Jessica. And that is al just part of the actual geography of the area.

YELLIN: It's just a mess Tom. Also Haiti is very poor; it's the poorest country in the Western world, isn't it?

FOREMAN: Absolutely. That's what I like to refer to as the economic geography of this. This is another layer you have to look at.

Look at this area in here; tremendous, tremendous number of people living here. If you go all the way in, you can see that you're also dealing with places in some areas that really are just shanty towns; people living at a terribly low level of living in terms of the economy.

How low? Well, look at this. If we can pop this number up here we'll look at it very quickly. The economy -- this is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, as you mentioned -- 80 percent living below the poverty line...

YELLIN: Wow.

FOREMAN: About 50 percent in abject poverty; really terrible living. Many people living for less than $200 a year, $400 a year, something like that.

And if we move across this whole sea of people here, I'll point out one more thing to you, Jessica. Why so many of them are not ready to deal with anything right now. They've had persistent problems. Four tropical storms in 2008 wiped out many roads; a lot of infrastructure and of course, 200 years of civil and political unrest. That's why, Jessica, this air field over here if they can get it open in the morning, maybe one of the most important things out there over the next few days in helping this company recover because it will bring help from outside.

YELLIN: They have to hope that works. Yes.

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

YELLIN: We spoke with New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly who had just been in Haiti meeting with law enforcement. He says the country had no fire department to speak of, which are typically the first responders. Do you know anything about whether Haiti has an ability to respond to this kind of catastrophe?

FOREMAN: The problem -- you're absolutely right Jessica. One of the real problems that we've been hearing all day today, there are so many things that Haiti has trouble responding to on a daily basis; enough medical care, enough fire protection, enough food. All sorts of issues like that.

So no, there's no question. These people are living so close to the edge of existence as it is, there absolutely is no doubt about it. If they don't have an awful lot of outside help, it will take them very, very long to recover from this. Even with a lot of help, it's going to be a long time before they can even begin to say they've recovered.

YELLIN: A very long time. Thank you so much, Tom Foreman.

And Jacqueline Charles is the "Miami Herald's" Caribbean correspondent. She has been talking to her stringer on the ground in Haiti by e-mail. She joins us now by phone.

Jacqueline thanks for being with us.

We're going to show now some pictures of the presidential palace there in Haiti which show just how much damage was done to one of the largest, most substantial buildings in Haiti. Right now we're looking at what it used to look like when it stood. And that is what the earthquake did to Haiti's presidential palace.

Jacqueline, you know the country well. These pictures tell the story from what we see in this picture, what can you tell us about what the other damage might be there in Haiti?

JACQUELINE CHARLES, CARIBBEAN CORRESPONDENT, "MIAMI HERALD": Well, the reports that I'm receiving, both from my stringers and sources that I'm speaking to is that there is considerable damage on the ground in Haiti, including the United Nations Headquarters.

At this point, you know, they put out a statement that said it is severely damaged but I'm also hearing from eyewitness reports that it may have been flattened. We're also hearing about damages in the hills of Petionville, which is the more wealthy area of the country.

So we're talking about damage that extends from downtown Port-au- Prince where the presidential palace is located, all the way up into the hills. We're hearing about churches -- I think at least one church has collapsed, others are in ruins. You know, fortunately President Rene Preval was not there at the palace at the time that this happened. He was at his house in an area called (INAUDIBLE), but that road to (INAUDIBLE) has also collapsed, we're also hearing.

YELLIN: You're heading there tomorrow, we understand. Do you have any sense of what you expect on the ground when you get there?

CHARLES: You know, to tell you the truth, no. We've seen some photos that have come through. You know we're hearing it's basically in the north, for instance, the second largest city people were fine. There's no damage. But when you're talking about the southeast, you're talking about Port-au-Prince, extensive buildings -- and at this point we can't even say what the casualties are.

In the past with these two tropical storms and two hurricanes that hit Haiti back to back in a matter of four weeks in 2008, you have the United Nations which was instrumental in addressing the disaster. And now you have them being part of this calamity because there are some people that are unaccounted for with them as well.

YELLIN: Unbelievable. Jacqueline Charles we wish you all best of the luck as you head there tomorrow. Please stay safe and keep us posted.

CHARLES: Thank you.

YELLIN: Thank you.

Still ahead, Anderson Cooper talks to singer, songwriter humanitarian Wyclef Jean. His foundation has given scholarships to thousands of students in Haiti. He's worried about his homeland and asking for your help when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: It's a difficult night ahead for the many Americans waiting to hear from their loved ones in Haiti.

Earlier, Anderson spoke with Wyclef Jean who was born in Haiti. Jean does a lot of humanitarian work there. He's also the nephew of Haiti's ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Joseph who we also heard from earlier.

Anderson also spoke with Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat who has family in Haiti. Here's that interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Wyclef, have you heard from your family and friends in Haiti? What are you hearing?

WYCLEF JEAN, HAITIAN-BORN SINGER: Actually I was on the phone with a friend in Haiti, and she says, "I think an earthquake is coming". And the phone goes off.

COOPER: Really?

JEAN: After that I texted and it took 45 minutes to get a text back. She said that she was outside with her kids, and that the buildings have just started collapsing. So this is how this conversation went on.

Right now I'm in the process of looking for a young rapper that went to Haiti to do a mix tape. His name is Jimmie O. It came through a text that he died. He was part of the Yele Haiti, the foundation so I urge everyone who's listening right now that knows how great this kid is in Haiti, I need you all to verify this information. It would be a terrible loss for us.

COOPER: Edwidge, I know you've been trying to get in touch with your family as well. Have you had any luck?

EDWIDGE DANTICAT, HAITIAN-AMERICAN NOVELIST: No, we haven't been able to. We've mostly tried to patch together information based on others we've heard from. But I have family in Kafur (ph), which some are saying is somewhat the epicenter and we have family in Delmar (ph) and in Belair (ph), but no calls are going through and we haven't heard anything.

COOPER: It's stunning for those of us who know Haiti and love it and have been there a lot, to think that Haiti now has to go through this, what Haitians have been forced to deal with for decades now. It's one thing after another.

JEAN: I mean, it's definitely one thing after another, but I think right now the most important thing is as you're on CNN, you're talking about it. Hillary Clinton is talking about it, giving help. President Obama is giving help.

Keep in mind, there's 4 million Haitians outside of Haiti. This is the time for the Diaspora, the Haitians that are outside of Haiti, to step up and to call their councilman, call the Congress and say, you know what? We need a state of emergency for our country. This is the most important thing.

Because as we're sitting here right now, there are people in the dark that are dead, and we aren't going to know what happens until the morning. So my urgency right now is really a cry of freedom saying we really need a state of emergency like right now.

You know, the hurricane; we just came from the hurricane. It seems like it's a disaster after disaster. But I think the Haitians that are in America now, we need to step up.

COOPER: Edwidge, as Wyclef said, it's night fall there, nighttime there. It's the same time as it is on the East Coast of the United States. You're out of electricity, no phone service, maybe have a collapsed building, and one man I talked to in Petionville just a moment ago said he has not heard any heavy equipment moving through. There's no bulldozers are coming.

One can only imagine what this night right now is like for a huge number of people on the ground in Haiti.

DANTICAT: Oh, this is probably one of the darkest nights in our history. And I think only when the sun comes up will we get a sense of it.

This is a place that's really not equipped for this kind of rescue. I'm sure there are people who might have been saved if they were gotten to in time, but it's going to be astronomical.

And I just want to echo what Wyclef says. We're going to need an extraordinary amount of help in the days and months and years to come. I think this whole -- the whole country basically is going to need rebuilding. And people who are the poorest of the poor, least able to withstand something like this, are suffering. And we absolutely need help. We need desperately, desperately need help.

COOPER: I know Wyclef, you have a number that people can text to? Is that correct?

JEAN: Yes.

COOPER: I think we have it on the screen, Yele -- it's y-e-l-e?

JEAN: So right now you can text "yele" to 501501. We're starting early, meaning it's still dark. So we have to go ahead, and once again, I can't ask you all to help me unless I help myself. So I'm urging once again, every Haitian people go ahead text that number, and at the same time we're asking for an emergency relief but we have to start by acting right now.

So go right now and text "yele" to 501501 and start making donations right now.

COOPER: We're also -- it charges your phone $5, I think?

JEAN: It charges your phone $5.

COOPER: We're going to put it on our Web site, other organizations which are working; Red Cross is trying to raise money as well. We'll be putting that on throughout the night as our coverage continues.

Wyclef, appreciate you being with us. I hope your friend is ok.

JEAN: Thank you. And you're going to Haiti?

COOPER: Yes. I'm hoping to hop on a flight in about two hours.

JEAN: I'm heading out there, too. So you need a translator, I'm right there for you, ok?

COOPER: All right. I appreciate it. My Creole is one or two sentences. We'll be all right.

Edwidge Danticat, I appreciate you being with us. I hope you hear from your family as well. (END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: That was Anderson earlier tonight. He's, in fact, on his way to Haiti right now. He plans to report for us from there bringing us the latest news tomorrow.

Well, the pictures and the stories continue to come in from Haiti.

Here is what we know right now. The earthquake measured 7.0 and has been followed by more than a dozen powerful aftershocks; some report more than two dozen. From eyewitness accounts there is widespread devastation. Heavy damage is reported in Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital.

The president's palace has been damaged. We have pictures of what it looked like before the quake and after the devastation. We don't have those yet, but we will bring them to you. The presidential palace we can affirm is in ruins.

There are also reports now of dead bodies and fears of mass casualties. We have learned at least two Americans are believed to be trapped in the rubble.

As we said, Anderson is on his way to Haiti right now. Tomorrow he will be on the ground reporting live on the devastation and the rescue efforts.

And that does it for this special edition of 360. Thank you for watching. Our coverage continues right now on CNN International.