Return to Transcripts main page
Earthquake Hits Haiti
Aired January 12, 2010 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome, everybody.
As you probably know, we are covering the breaking news tonight, this disaster that is currently unfolding in Haiti. This was just over three hours ago. There was a massive 7.0 earthquake. It was centered 10 miles west of Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince. And right now we are hearing reports of victims carrying the bodies of other victims through the rubble.
The Associated Press reports that a hospital collapsed. There have been at least four aftershocks, but a tsunami alert for the Caribbean has now been canceled. In this hour, you're going to hear from victims, from witnesses to this catastrophe. We are also tracking developments at the White House and elsewhere as a massive relief effort gets under way right now.
And we should just be clear. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. It is also one of the most densely populated. There are no resources, very little infrastructure there to deal with a crisis like this. And it's going to be a very, very bad situation.
We first want to go to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who is in the CNN Center in Atlanta, with the very latest on where things stand right now.
As we just told people, Chad, a moment ago, the tsunami warning has been canceled, but what's happening now? Are they still experiencing aftershocks?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They are.
And they will, and they may very well experience aftershocks for weeks or even months with a 7.0 earthquake. What happened was that a slip fault, a fault that goes one way and then the other way, a lot like what we call the world series earthquake -- that's how we know it -- not so much that it's that type of damage, but the problem with this earthquake is that it was only six miles down, even about 5.2 right now. The numbers are coming in and they change every once in a while because the initial earthquake was a 7.3, they thought, and then they said, no, not a 7.3. We're looking at it again. It's a 7.0.
So, if you have heard 7.3 and you say, hey, what happened to the 7.3, there never really was a 7.3. It was a 7.0. But it was very shallow. A shallow earthquake will do a couple things. It shakes the earth violently because there is no padding. Let's say this earthquake was 200 miles down. By the time this thing got all the way up to the top of the surface, there would be a little bit of attenuation, or a little bit less of the shake as the earth absorbs some of that energy.
Because it was so close, an awful lot like what was the -- the Banda Aceh quake was only six miles deep, although a different type of fault. The Banda Aceh fault was kind of a seduction fault and the land popped up. And that popped up, moved the water, and the water caused the tsunami.
So, let's move you ahead here. And here's Port-au-Prince right there. Haiti a very rugged country, very densely populated here, and the ambassador said that this town was made to house 5,000 people, and then maybe 50,000 people, but now we have almost at this point in time two million people in the city itself, where literally people built on top of other buildings.
So, as we look at this area, we can flatten it out, densely populated all along the mountains and densely populated all along what's almost like a horseshoe-like bay. And this is a very protected bay. That's why it was settled in the first place, because of that protection.
The shaking occurred about three hours ago, and when we first heard the earthquake shake and we heard about it, the initial reports were that there was dust in the air. You couldn't even see across the city. That dust was concrete dust as those buildings were literally disintegrating -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right, Chad, we are going to check back with you a little bit later, as you have more information.
I just a few moments ago spoke on the phone with Michael Bazile. This is a engineer who was in Port-au-Prince. He witnessed the quake, told me there was and remains at this hour panic in the streets, people screaming, crying, searching for family members at this hour. Here's what he said a few moments ago.
MICHAEL BAZILE, EYEWITNESS: Everybody is on the streets, and the traffic is jammed. There is nothing we can do. And I'm looking for my sister-in-law and her husband. We don't know where they are. And everybody is yelling. They are praying. They are crying.
Many houses are down. We really don't know what's going on. And every 30 minutes, we feel again. We are worried because we think it's not over. We pray it's over, but we don't know, because we feel it maybe four times after that.
BROWN: Describe for us how bad it is. What does the destruction look like around you? BAZILE: The traffic is jammed. And they have to bring people to the hospital. There is no way, because it's (INAUDIBLE) You have to go on foot. And the worst thing is that every 30 minutes we feel it again. We feel it like, not even a second, but we feel it, every 30 minutes. That's the problem.
BROWN: So do you have any sense of what the rest of the city is like right now, or, frankly, other parts of the country?
BAZILE: Yes. There is no way to go out. And the radio stations, they are not working. And there is no news. Nobody knows what's going on downtown.
BROWN: Again, that was an eyewitness who was on the scene, obviously.
The State Department working on providing enormous assistance. The Haitian ambassador was on CNN earlier tonight saying that they are going to need a lot of help.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke and talked about what a disaster this is, releasing a statement a short time ago, and saying that they are working to put together a package to help people as quickly as possible.
We want to go now to Mike Godfrey, who is the director of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He lives in a suburb of Port-au-Prince and was at home when the earthquake struck just over three hours ago. When we spoke to him on the phone just a little while ago, he reported the capital city mostly blacked out and appears to have been severely damaged. Take a listen.
MIKE GODFREY, U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: It was a very severe jolting. The entire apartment building shook. Things began to come down off the walls.
I ran out into the courtyard and began to cry out to other members of the apartment building to come into the courtyard. The shaking was severe and it went on for what I thought was quite a long time, but I guess it's about 15, 20 seconds.
It delivered one heck of a jolt. I'm at an apartment building in Petionville, which is above the central city of Port-au-Prince. My view affords me down the mountain a complete view of the city across the entire downtown area and out to the sea.
I wanted to tell you specifically that prior to my making this call that I actually witnessed a takeoff at the international airport. The international airport appears to be functioning. I saw a plane, a large plane, depart at about 6:50 this evening. It may have been the delayed American Airlines. It's dark. I could only see the lights going up, but it was a significant airplane. So the international airport, I don't know about damage to the facilities, but the runway, at least, is open and functioning.
I am frustrated trying to find colleagues and staff, because the phone network is not functioning in Port-au-Prince. I see some traffic, limited traffic on a couple of the routes that are visible from my location. I saw a helicopter go up at about 10 minutes after the quake. I thought it was a U.N. helicopter. I could not see because of the lighting. It was a fairly large helicopter, so I'm assuming it was the U.N. that put it up in the air.
I don't know about the -- any emergency efforts. I cannot see that from my locations. What I did see was within about a minute of the quake, a huge pall of dust and smoke rose up over the city, a blanket the completely covered city and obscured it for about 20 minutes until the atmosphere dissipated the dust. It just was an amazing sight to see dust come over that big of a city area.
BROWN: You heard there communication problems obviously a huge issue right now, as we're trying to get more information from Haiti at this hour.
I should tell you that we just got a statement from the White House. The president was told about the quake a little before 6:00 tonight, asking his staff to make sure that embassy personnel are safe, to begin preparations in the event that humanitarian assistance is needed. Obviously, it will be.
The State Department, USAID and the United States Southern Command are working on coordinating an assessment and whatever assistance is needed. We are going to have more on that. Jill Dougherty is over is at the State Department for us and we will be talking to her in just a minute.
First, though, we want to go to Drew Sachs. Here is a former FEMA official who is an expert on disaster preparedness. And Haiti, he works with Clinton Global Initiative and he is joining us right now.
And, Drew, I know you have been working very closely with the Haitian government to plan for a disaster like this. Give us an idea of what, if any, resources they really have to be able to respond.
ANDREW SACHS, FORMER FEMA OFFICIAL: Resources in Haiti are sparse, at best. They are struggling after decades of major political problems and poverty.
Some of the most basic things that you would be looking for in response to an event like this, including trucks, including simple food and water stock, is difficult to come by. In fact, in many cases, it doesn't exist at all. And I would even say the emergency services in Haiti are in very, very bad shape. In fact, nationally, there are only about two firehouses that actually are fully, fully capable of performing emergency response operations. And that's going to be a major problem when you're talking about an event like this, particularly with so many collapsed structures.
BROWN: Given that, I mean, it sounds like everything, but I was going to say knowing everything you do about Haiti, what are you most worried about? But it seems like just getting basic treatment to people with search-and-rescue efforts, right?
SACHS: Yes, that's actually one of the biggest problems. The logistics, the transportation in Haiti is very difficult in normal times. There are many roads that you have to monitor on a day-to-day basis to figure out if they're going to be passable for vehicles.
When you have an event like this that causes the type of shaking that's been caused, the type of damage on roadsides, as well as to the roads themselves, simply getting to and from some of the damaged areas is going to be incredibly difficult.
A few years ago, there was a major hurricane that struck Haiti, and there were some communities that went for weeks without anyone even showing up with relief supplies, and that was because they simply couldn't get there. Communications is going to be a very big issue in Haiti as well.
The system they have there is down, as you reported earlier this evening, but they have a lot of difficulty getting communication in emergencies. And identifying needs particularly outside of Port-au- Prince and being able to get those back to the emergency responders who may have access to resources in many cases is going to be done by hand, over land, and with road problems and the lack of vehicles and ability to get through, that's going to be a real challenge. It's going to take a long time.
BROWN: Well, and you talk about communication. And we should say we don't even know, really, outside of Port-au-Prince, because the people we have talked to have primarily been there, even what the rest of the country is like.
And you sort of touched on this, Drew, but it's hard -- fair to say there are no real building codes in Haiti. These -- the collapses, the building collapses, the homes are -- you know, I heard one of the ambassadors describe it as like little boxes that in no way are going to hold up in these kinds of circumstances. Is that what we're talking about here, where it's just massive collapse?
SACHS: Yes, I think that's exactly what you're talking about. There is a lot of concrete construction in Haiti. None of it is done with any code in mind. In most cases, if you're talking about single- story structures, there is no rebar or any support in the structure to protect it from the type of shocks you're talking about.
And even having seen a lot of the construction there, including buildings under construction over the last six or eight months in Haiti, the construction that is multistory is not being built even close to anything that we in the United States would call seismically- resistant standards.
When I first heard about this earthquake, my first thought was the fact that the vast majority of these structures in unreinforced concrete are probably going to be just crumbling to the ground. And my guess would that once we get some additional intelligence on the ground from in these neighborhoods, that big cloud of dust that was reported in one of your previous caller's discussions, it's probably going to be you're going to find that was buildings, these buildings just falling down and the concrete turning to dust.
BROWN: Finally, Drew, I know you said it's going to be very difficult when they get there because of how bad the roads are in terms of getting aid to people, but aid agencies do have a lot of experience in Haiti. They know the country, right? Assuming that they are able to get there quickly, they sort of know what to do on the ground, is that a fair assessment?
SACHS: Yes. That's actually the one few bright spots I see in this situation. After the hurricane a couple years back, a tremendous number of aid agencies have a presence in Haiti. They have a lot of strong relationships within the communities, both inside Port-au- Prince and out in the rural areas, and they will probably have a network of people in place, as long as they made it through the earthquake themselves. They will have a network in place that can provide some support.
I think the challenge is going to be getting those individuals the support they need and the resources they need, everything from pharmaceuticals and food and water that's going to be required for what I think is going to be a very long and drawn-out recovery period for Haiti.
BROWN: Drew Sachs, such a difficult time right now. Appreciate your expertise and insight on this.
Stand by, everybody. We're going to have a whole lot more coming up in just a second. We're going to go talk to Jill Dougherty, who is at the State Department, as they gear up and look at what American aid is going to be going in and how it's going to get there.
Stand by. We will be right back.
BROWN: A short time ago, Secretary Hillary Clinton spoke out about this. She had just left the United States. She was on in Hawaii on her way to a tour of the Pacific. And she made some assurances to the people of Haiti that U.S. help is on the way. Let's listen to what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I want to just say a few words about developments in Haiti. We are still gathering information about this catastrophic earthquake, the point of impact, its effect on the people of Haiti. The United States is offering our full assistance to Haiti and to others in the region. We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, and our prayers are with the people who have suffered, their families and their loved ones.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Jill Dougherty, our foreign affairs correspondent, standing by for us right now at the State Department with the latest.
And I know you just came out of a briefing, Jill. What did they tell you?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
Well, it was by P.J. Crowley, who is a spokesman for the State Department, and he said that they have activated what they call their disaster response plan, also that Secretary Clinton -- she is now traveling -- she was in Hawaii, as you just said -- she had a direct phone call with the DCM, the deputy chief of mission, whose name is David Lindwall, got some basic information from him, and also some personal views of what he had seen.
He was actually returning home after work. He saw significant damage, structures collapsed, people injured and killed. And, in fact, P.J. Crowley was saying that they expect serious loss of life.
Communications is a big problem. The State Department has tried to reach out to the government of Haiti, but they haven't been able to, at least as of that briefing that we had a short time ago. So, they are trying to continue to get in touch, and that's one of the real problems, Campbell.
BROWN: And, Jill, we just had some of the disaster relief experts on the show. They have been talking to us for the last couple of hours about how difficult it is, assuming we get aid there, to get it to the areas where it's needed because roads are so horrible. How are they prepared to deal with these challenges?
DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, they have what are called the disaster response teams. These are search-and-rescue teams, one from L.A., from Los Angeles, and one from right here, Fairfax, Virginia. They are ready to go.
But one of the questions is, and we probably won't know this until tomorrow morning first light, is whether that airport actually is open and functioning and whether those teams can get in.
And then the other thing is that the communications between here, Washington, the State Department, and the embassy are good, because they have what are called tie lines. But for average who are down, American citizens who are in Haiti right now, trying to get in touch with the embassy, it could be difficult because landlines care down and cell phones are extremely spotty. So, the one thing they're trying to do now is get in touch with those U.S. citizens and the staff of the embassy.
BROWN: And those phone lines are probably going to be down for a while.
Jill Dougherty for us tonight with the very latest from there -- Jill, thanks.
And we want to our international desk at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
CNN international anchor Michael Holmes standing by there.
And I know information, Michael, has just been pouring in there to the information desk from all over the place. Tell us what you're hearing right now.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is.
I have got to tell you, I'm right in the middle of what is the engine room of our coverage here, the international desk. All these people are working pretty hard getting our crews down there and getting information.
What's been interesting, Campbell, is how we're getting the first of our images. Wafa (ph) called me over earlier. And, Jim, we will come in and a look at some of these photos. These photos are on Facebook.
And what's happened is a lot of the telecommunications, phones and such, are down, but people are still able to communicate via Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. These are some of the first images we have got.
Thanks, Wafa (ph).
And over here, Talia (ph) was showing me earlier on Twitter -- you can see this photo here -- Jim, I don't know if you can get in there -- see the cracks in the building there from this, and then another photograph that we pulled up a short time ago, too, on Twitpic. And you can see there an injured person being taken away with some of the devastation there.
So, as we seen in other sort of tumultuous situations, such as Iran and places like that, it is the social media that is getting out some of the first images -- Campbell.
BROWN: And, presumably, anecdotes as well about how just bad the situation is in Port-au-Prince and well outside Port-au-Prince. Because of the lack of communication, we really only have been able to talk to people in the capital city. Do you have any sense for what people are saying?
HOLMES: Yes, that's right, and in fact, one of our other workers here who works on our Impact Your World, ironically, Web site, he was telling me that he has family in Haiti and contacted them. And they said that they were getting information from other people via Facebook as well.
One of our other producers actually managed to get through on a cell phone to a relative Haiti who told of seeing bodies in the street after the earthquake struck and at one point was actually splattered with blood. You are getting these sorts of chilling accounts, first- person accounts, coming out of Haiti now.
But the images at the moment coming from social media until we can get proper communications going.
BROWN: Appreciate it, Michael. We're going to check back in with you throughout the night, obviously.
And we will have more images for you. We're putting all that together, so you can see. As Michael pointed out, that is how information is getting out right now, through many of these social networking sites.
And I want to bring in right now Nan Buzard, who is with the American Red Cross, to talk about -- a little bit about relief efforts.
And, Nan, presumably, you have had some communication, I hope, with people there. What are you hearing?
NAN BUZARD, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, thanks, Campbell, for having us on.
It took us about 2.5 hours after the earthquake struck this afternoon to get in touch with our staff working in Port-au-Prince. We finally got in touch with them through very difficult means. We had go through VHF radio and then to mobile phones. Our staff are accounted for, which is a great relief for us, but they also describe very, very devastating conditions.
BROWN: So, be -- be more specific. Is it limited to Port-au- Prince, or that's really all they can assess right now, I guess?
BUZARD: That's all they can assess. We do have staff up in the northeast part of Haiti, and they didn't report anything, but again it's far too early to get a full assessment and to really say what's going on.
BROWN: And, Nan, we are the hearing from people that we have talked to that it's chaos in the streets, traffic jams, nobody really sort of able to deal with the crisis in terms of the infrastructure there, police, ambulance, nothing like that.
Just give people a sense of what it's like, because I'm not sure that we as Americans have a real appreciation for how bad the situation is.
BUZARD: Well, one of the worst things about an earthquake is how sudden it is. With a hurricane, and there's certainly been a lot of hurricanes it Haiti -- we're still doing recovery programs from two years ago from the four hurricanes that hit Haiti.
But the thing about a hurricane or a flood is that you can predict it. With an earthquake, you can't predict it. And it's not something that normally happens in Haiti. I think we're all somewhat taken by surprise with this. There's been low-level ones, but nothing of this magnitude.
So, for both ourselves and certainly the people in Haiti, it's the shock, it's the panic, and so people are terrified because this tremendous event has happened. And then of course with earthquakes, you have aftershocks. So, people who are either injured or alive are out in the streets and they're terrified.
And every 30 or 60 minutes, or depending on what the time difference is between the earthquake and the aftershocks, they're seeing buildings shaking around them and they feel the earth under them shaking, so there is absolute panic. You add to this that it's nighttime. The electricity has been knocked out. From what we hear, the city is in darkness. There's fires that have started.
There is very little infrastructure to support Haiti emergency response, so there's not going to be a lot of police force or fire. So, there is going to be a real sense and there is a sense of absolute terror, panic, chaos, and confusion. And that will continue through the entire night. It's a terrible situation.
BROWN: So, Nan, walk us through -- this is such a massive challenge that your people have on their hands. Walk us through what they can do or what they will be doing now and over the next 24 hours.
BUZARD: Well, I'm sure that the staff that we have on the ground are already out there working as much as they can with the volunteers of the Haitian Red Cross and the staff of the Haitian Red Cross. Right now, they will be working with search-and-rescue. They will be trying to identify if the staff and the volunteers of the Haitian Red Cross are safe and accounted for and available, and then trying to organize people.
The first 24 hours is going to be primarily search-and-rescue. And that can go on for days more. But following that search-and- rescue period, there is going to be shelters set up, temporary shelters. That's going to be very difficult just to find physical space in a very dense, urban area where you can safely put groups of people to get them clean water and food and medical attention.
BROWN: Nan, if you will, stand by. I know we're going to want to talk with you more throughout this hour. Really appreciate your time from the Red Cross, obviously.
They're going to need your help as well with -- given what we know so far, what a massive disaster this does appear to be.
We're going to take a quick break. Stand by. We have got a lot more information to tell you about. We're also getting our very first images coming in right now, mostly coming in through social media, through Twitter and Facebook, of just how bad the damage is. We will be back after a quick break.
BROWN: And we're back with more breaking news.
We want to bring you up to date on what's happening right now at this hour. As you probably know, a potentially catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, it hit just over three hours ago. It was a massive 7.0 earthquake centered 10 miles west of Haiti's capital city of Port-au-Prince.
And as we have been reporting, we are hearing reports of people carrying bodies of other victims through the rubble, collapsed buildings all over Port-au-Prince. The Associated Press is reporting that a hospital has collapsed.
There have been a number of aftershocks, at least four aftershocks, but, as we told you earlier, a tsunami alert for the Caribbean that had been in place has now been canceled.
The Obama administration has pledged to send aid to the scene. The president put out a statement a little bit earlier. The State Department is working on logistics for trying to get aid there. We have been talking to a number of people, disaster relief experts, throughout the evening talking to us about how difficult it is to get aid to people in this country because the resources there are almost nonexistent. This is going to be quite a challenge.
Earlier, I spoke with -- on the phone with Jean Bernard who is another eyewitness to the earthquake there as all of this is happening. And I asked him what is happening -- to describe what is happening in the capital city of Port-au-Prince at that moment, and he described a very frightening scene of complete chaos. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEAN BERNARD, PORT-AU-PRINCE HAITI (via telephone): Well, first of all, I can tell you there is no power at all. The city is in blackout completely and the first earthquake it probably lasted, I would say, about 35 to 40 seconds.
It was very heavy and people were running all over the streets, and we have a lot of damage. A lot of houses, buildings went down and people were still running all over the streets, because from where I am standing, I can see the city and there's a huge traffic. People are still running all over to try to get (INAUDIBLE) and people are looking for their wives, looking for their husband and their kids. And it's scary. It's really scary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Obviously, incredibly frightening, especially given the lights out, the time of night. It is pitch black dark. And as people keep telling us, chaos in the streets right now.
Joining me via Skype is an aid worker, Gregory van Schoyck. He is about 40 miles outside of Port-au-Prince, as I understand.
Are you there, Gregory? We got you. Can you hear me?
GREGORY VAN SCHOYCK, AID WORKER: Yes. Yes, I am here. Good evening.
BROWN: So, good evening to you. Tell us what you saw, what it looks like from where you are.
VAN SCHOYCK: Well, we are actually about 80 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince on the central plateau of Haiti, north of the city of Hinche (ph). And we have very little damage here. However, it was the largest earthquake I've experienced here in 14 years. And the ground was pitching and it went on for several minutes. We have a stone house and a concrete brick house, and it was groaning and moaning a little bit.
But we really have no damage, but the entire community just went into an uproar. You could hear people calling to one another because the entire neighborhood felt it. And right now, of course, it's pretty quiet and it's back to normal, but I think a lot of people here are concerned about their loved ones down in Port-au-Prince. We have a lot of people down there working and going to school. The cell phones are out and there's absolutely no contact.
In fact, the news when I was on hold here, I was listening in on your broadcasts and that's the first news I've had, and I do appreciate being able to listen to that. It sounds pretty bad down there.
BROWN: Well, that's been the biggest challenge. I mean, you just said it. From what we're hearing from people it's lack of communication. No phone lines, obviously. It's pitch black dark. Cell phones aren't really working.
So I understand you're an aid worker, Gregory. I don't know if you can tell us what organization you're with and what the plan is. I mean, presumably you're going to be trying to help. What can organizations do -- aid organizations do right now? We know this is a tremendous challenge given the infrastructure for disaster relief in that country.
VAN SCHOYCK: Yes. That is a major issue. We're -- I'm with the Haitian American Friendship Foundation. We're a Christian non-profit working in the realm of education. And, yes, in fact, my son who attends Georgia Tech in Atlanta has already been -- he's back at school. He speaks fluent Creole, and he's been trying to offer his services as a translator for any groups that may want to go in.
We're certainly willing to jump in here. We've done some hurricane relief work in the past because the infrastructure is so sparse up this way and throughout Haiti that really everyone sort of needs to pitch in and work together because the roads are terrible even before this happened. So we're all concerned about getting help where it's needed. We will be contacting World Vision. We have some contacts with World Vision in offering our services just to help out any way we can, offering our vehicles, our manpower, because we dodged the bullet up here so all our trucks are working. And fortunately, we do have, I'm talking via Skype. We have the Internet. Satellite Internet is working and that's going to be crucial. In the olden days, we used short wave radio, but now apparently the Internet is going to bail us out this time.
And I wish I could get you to contact a friend of mine who just sent me an e-mail from Port-au-Prince. He's a pilot, a missionary pilot, and he wrote to say that his refrigerator walked across the room about four feet and his dishes rattled a lot. But when he went outside, he said the air was full of dust and he said that could only mean one thing, that a lot of buildings must have gone down.
That's all that he's reported. We've written several friends, American friends, who are in Port-au-Prince, and I'm a little concerned that none of them have gotten back to us, which means, you know, that could mean that their power is out and they just don't have Internet. But it's hard to say, but we are -- we are a little concerned.
BROWN: Well, that is what we've heard, obviously, Gregory, but that is what we've heard from pretty much everybody we've talked to, that there is a complete blackout. All the power is out in Port-au- Prince, so you probably are not able to communicate with anybody at this point. Hopefully that's going to change soon.
Gregory van Schoyck, appreciate your time joining us. Again, an aid worker from outside of Port-au-Prince.
We're going to take another quick break. We'll be back with a lot more latest details coming from the State Department in terms of American aid efforts as well right after the break.
BROWN: We want to quickly take you back to Gregory can Schoyck. He is an aid worker outside of Port-au-Prince. You'll see that we're speaking with him a moment ago.
And, Gregory, I was just told that you guys are experiencing aftershocks right now, right?
VAN SCHOYCK: Yes. I was just about ready to sign off with you folks and I realized that the couch that I was sitting on was shaking and the house was moaning again. And my daughter came running in and said, I felt that one. So we had a small aftershock. I just hope that means that Port-au-Prince did not have more. But we had a little one here about two minutes ago.
BROWN: Wow. We are going to be tracking what's happening in Port-au-Prince. Fortunately, most of the damage not where you are. You guys are OK and I know the surrounding area, everyone pretty much OK in that area. Appreciate your time tonight, Gregory. We want to move on now and update you on the latest information and take you into our newsroom where our reporters with CNN International have been tracking pretty much everything coming in from around the country right now.
But first, actually, let's go to Tom Foreman who's in Washington.
Tom, are you there?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Campbell.
FOREMAN: Yes. Hi, Campbell.
BROWN: And, Tom, I know you've been sort of taking a closer look at Haiti. Give us a little bit of education, all of us, about the country, the population and what they're going to be facing now.
FOREMAN: Sure, Campbell, because really, what you've been talking about all throughout the show is really layers of problems, and these layers of problems have a historic basis and an economic basis.
The United States here. Go past Florida, Bahamas, Cuba, you wind up with Haiti down here between the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. And moving closer, we can talk about some of the characteristics of this island.
There are more than nine million people living in this area. Forty-seven percent of them live in cities or towns, and they have about a 53 percent literacy rate. So you get an idea of some of the first problems of what we're looking at here.
If we move in, you see the actual shock area here with Port-au- Prince up here. We sort of angle the earth here a little bit and talk about this area. You can see the first aspect that hinders all sorts of things in this area in terms of getting around. It's just a little bit smaller than Maryland, but it's very mountainous, very rough terrain in many parts of the country. And there has long been an earthquake and hurricane hazards here. Mainly as strong as hurricanes, a bigger problem here, Campbell, but those have long posed problems for this country.
BROWN: And obviously, Tom, Haiti desperately poor country, the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
FOREMAN: That may be one of the biggest layers that people have to worry about here, Campbell, in terms of the added layers of problems.
Look at this as we move in toward Port-au-Prince proper. For starters think about this. This is an area that was built for about 50,000 people. It now has about two million in it. That partially happens because of poverty. Look at this. The economy, it's the he poorest nation in the western hemisphere, as you mentioned. Eighty percent live below the poverty line. About 50, 60 percent live in abject poverty. Many people here living on under $400 a year, under $2 a day, something like that. Really, really awful conditions, Campbell, and that's in the best of times.
BROWN: All right. Tom Foreman for us with the very latest on Haiti. Kind of what we don't know.
We want to go now to Karl Penhaul, who -- Michael Holmes? We're going to go to Michael Holmes who is in the CNNI newsroom, I believe, with some new information for us.
Michael, are you there?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNNI ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hi, Campbell.
HOLMES: Yes, just sort of updating you on what's been going on around here. We're still working on getting out crews down there. That's all starting to happen.
Now as we've been reporting, too, what's been interesting is we've been starting to get most of our pictures, the early pictures coming from Facebook, social media Web sites.
Wolf (ph) called up a few of these earlier for us. And some of the pictures are pretty dramatic. Some of them don't show a whole lot of damage. But interesting that the whole social network thing has happened again. Twitter, we're getting tweet pics as well.
One thing that's important is people are offering to help, they should go to our Web site, CNN.com/impact. They're going to find there the "Impact Your World" Web site, but there's a lot of information there. Because I know we're getting a lot of calls from people saying what can we do.
Well, go there, because there's a lot of stuff listed, a lot of the organizations that are in Haiti or are going to Haiti, and people can get a lot of information, CNN.com/impact.
And we're continuing to monitor some of these photographs. I think we've got a couple more. Just scroll down there.
Yes, just some more photographs of some of the damage that's being done. A lot of the comments that we're seeing on Facebook, too. Obviously, people very distressed at what's going on and some comments about how they felt at the time, the drama of it all. And I see there one photo of an injured person being taken away.
So we continue to monitor all of this, Campbell. We'll update you when we get more.
BROWN: All right. Michael, thank you. You know, the great irony, I think, in all of this is because of the poverty in Haiti, so many of these aid organizations were working down there, operating down there already. Obviously, they have a huge new challenge on their hands to deal with. They really need your help.
If you go to the "Impact Your World" Web site, it is a tremendous resource. All the information you need right there about how to reach out to various organizations. They'll be up front and honest with you about what they may need to get through this. Obviously, a lot of cash right now. A pretty desperate situation from what we're hearing from people on the ground.
We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with a lot more information right after this. Stay with us.
BROWN: As you may have noticed a moment ago, we were talking with someone via Skype when an aftershock hit. This is outside of Port-au-Prince. So presumably, that aftershock has hit Port-au-Prince as well. And so for that reason, we want to check in quickly with CNN meteorologist Chad Myers who is in the CNN severe weather center with more.
Chad, do we know anything about this aftershock?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We have had 13 aftershocks above 4.5 just in the past three hours, and seven above 5.
Now, and one of them 5.9. And 5.9 is a big earthquake all by itself. We call it an aftershock because the main shock was 7.0. Otherwise, we'd be calling it an earthquake because it's the same.
It's rupturing right along the same fault line as the first earthquake happened, but we call them aftershocks because after the big earthquake moves, then the earth tries to settle itself back down because it's almost moved too far. And that's what's happening now.
Port-au-Prince about 12 miles to the west/southwest where the earthquake was. A densely populated packed area here, two million people. Many of them living on cliff sides literally along the cliffs of the city where the rest of the population and the commercial centers down here in the flats where this big, big area here of topography, especially to the south of the city, is where it really, really ruptured and that's where the earthquake's center right was at 7.0.
And, Campbell, the problem is only six miles deep. You get a 200-mile-deep earthquake it kind of muffles itself. Six miles deep, or at six miles shallow, there's no muffling at all. That earthquake is a jolt, and a 7.0 is a major earthquake. And this is a big time damaging earthquake -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right. Chad, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
We have someone via Skype joining us now. Jonathan Dorante (ph), I believe. Are you there, Jonathan?
JONATHAN DORANTE, CROIX-DES-BOUQUETS: Yes, that's right.
BROWN: And, Jonathan, where are you?
DORANTE: I'm in Croix-des-Bouquets, which is just on the north end of Port-au-Prince.
BROWN: Well, I'm surprised we're even able to talk to you because we're hearing about all this communication productions and that the power is out. Tell us what's going on where you are right now.
DORANTE: Well, there's a lot of aftershocks coming through. We just had one maybe three minutes ago. It was strong enough to rattle the windows and rattle the pictures on the wall. And I'm amazed, too, that we have connection through the Internet.
BROWN: And have you been outside, Jonathan? Have you been able to get a look at all about -- at the city, about the area where you are to see how bad the damage is?
DORANTE: Actually, I was driving back home, so I was driving from the north part of the country back into Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck. And I had to drive through Croix-des-Bouquets, the town where we live before I could get home. So I was able to see quite a bit of damage firsthand.
Houses had collapsed. Three-story houses just each floor collapsed onto the one below it. I saw fences, block wall fences that had fallen onto a motorcycle. One woman, I could only see her head and the rest of her body was trapped under the fence -- under a block wall. She had, I don't know, obviously I think she was dead because she had blood coming out of her eyes and nose and ears.
BROWN: Oh, god. Are people getting any help? Do you see people, aid workers, who are able to get there? You know, rescue personnel of any kind who are out on the streets trying to do anything?
DORANTE: Well, actually, where we are, we're hearing sirens regularly.
BROWN: I believe we just lost Jonathan. He was there coming to us via Skype. You heard him describe some of the horrific conditions that he had witnessed driving home. He is on the outskirts of Port- au-Prince. We're going to try to get him back for more information in just a moment.
We're going to take a quick break. Stand by. We've got a lot more information coming to you shortly.
BROWN: More on our breaking news right now out of Haiti, and we're just getting some new images in to share with you. These coming from a gentleman that we spoke with, Jonathan Dorante (ph), a few moments ago by Skype. And he had taken these pictures. This was about 15 minutes after the quake. You're seeing the damaged streets and road, obviously, damaged homes and buildings he described that he saw on his drive home shortly after this happened.
This is more on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, so not quite the condensed area where we had been hearing so much of this damage was where there is just chaos in the streets. Communication down, so we're getting very few images out of there.
We've been able to Skype with just a few people. And frankly, most of the information, most of the pictures, anyway, that we've seen at this point have come via Facebook and Twitter. Many of the images at this stage. We're going to be updating you, obviously, throughout the night as we get more information.
I just want to reset a little bit here and give you the basic facts about what we know at this hour.
7.0 earthquake, this is a devastating earthquake that struck Haiti and this is just outside of Port-au-Prince. It's believed to be the largest earthquake to ever hit the area. Thirteen aftershocks we were told in the past few hours. An aid worker there describes a scene at this hour of total disaster and chaos.
Haiti's ambassador to the U.S. tells "The Associated Press" that he's hearing of buildings collapsing just right and left, and we are hearing reports of people screaming for help from inside a crumbled hospital. Obviously, at night given the communications issues, we're not really going to know or be able to do an assessment of what's happening there until daylight tomorrow.
President Obama has instructed American officials in Haiti to start preparing humanitarian relief efforts. We heard from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking about this. She described a catastrophe of major proportions given what the State Department is learning about this now.
We have more eyewitness accounts of this dire situation in Haiti coming in to us. We also want to go now to Ambassador Timothy Carney who is a diplomat. He was the former U.S. ambassador to Haiti. He certainly knows the country inside and out and is able to give us a sense for what it's like there.
Ambassador Carney, are you with us now?
TIMOTHY CARNEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO HAITI: I am, indeed, Ms. Brown.
BROWN: I appreciate your time tonight. Just tell us, given the extensive amount of time that you spent in Haiti, what the conditions are like in the country that we're dealing with.
CARNEY: I think what we might look at first is why there are so many people at risk in Port-au-Prince itself. It was a town of maybe 250,000 in the mid-'50s and it's between two and three million now.
Now, that's an urbanization phenomena that is very, very familiar in the Third World. It's a result, frankly, of overpopulation, complete lack of birth control in Haiti itself.
What you got is these people flowed into town was not only an increase in buildings in Port-au-Prince proper, but there was, on the hills around Port-au-Prince, a protected space called the -- to protect the aquifer. It was supposed to stay green.
CARNEY: That didn't happen. People started building up those hillsides and they built shanties.
BROWN: Well --
CARNEY: They didn't build those concrete structures.
BROWN: So --
CARNEY: And my fear is they all tumbled down as a result of this earthquake.
BROWN: Well, that's what it sounds like based on what we're hearing. I mean, it's just -- you know, we keep hearing people talk about a sort of dust cloud, the eyewitnesses who have been there, which suggests many, many of these buildings or shanties if you describe them, as we heard them describe repeatedly, have, in fact, collapsed. You would assume they have?
CARNEY: I would, indeed, unfortunately. Now there is some good news on the sides of both relief and, of course, the important question of maintaining law and order, and that is that there is a U.N. mission that's been in Haiti since 2004 and was reauthorized until October of this year. That U.N. mission has the vehicles that can get around broken pavement and bad streets and I'm sure the U.S. Southern Command, which will have to be the primary U.S. vehicle of providing relief, will be working closely with Minista (ph), as it's known in its French acronym.
This will be vital effort not only of getting relief in, but also of backing up the Haitian national police. And we heard from one of your Skype callers that he had noted sirens in his neighborhood, so I'm assuming the Haitian national police and those few emergency services that exist are being very active now.
BROWN: Well, I was going to say that they are limited, though, the emergency services available. Are they not, to people there? We're going to be relying -- our people will be relying heavily on whatever U.S. humanitarian aid and aid organizations more than anything, aren't they?
CARNEY: Exactly, but it's going to have to be a hemisphere-wide effort and the good news is South America is heavily engaged in Haiti and the peace-keeping effort that's been ongoing for the past five years. And I know that they'll be involved with us in the relief effort as well.
BROWN: Ambassador Timothy Carney, we appreciate it. He was the former U.S. ambassador to Haiti joining us right now to give us a sense of the conditions in that country at this hour.
We're going to have a lot more for you throughout the evening. Obviously, our breaking news is going to continue throughout the night as we get our arms around this disaster and just how bad it is. More images expected to come in in the next few hours given the communication challenges we've been having.
"LARRY KING LIVE," going to continue our coverage starting right now.