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CNN NEWSROOM

Haiti Crumbles; Interview With Florida Governor Charlie Crist

Aired January 13, 2010 - 15:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everybody.

We're expecting that there's going to be a lot of news coming your way. Of course, you're paying attention to the news, so you know that the national conversation today is focused on one nation, one sudden natural disaster. And now millions of people are homeless, maybe hundreds of thousands dead.

We say maybe there because those are numbers that have come from a Haitian leader, not confirmed, because -- well, because of the chaos there around Port-au-Prince right now. It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to appreciate how deeply and how profoundly the people of Haiti are suffering right now.

I want to start with something before we start hooking up with our crews who are there in Port-au-Prince. I want you to watch this video, which tends to -- tends to tell its own story of desperation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show him where they're at. He's going to flash the light, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they -- are they -- are they alive?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need more people down here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: You're watching some of the people as they're pulled out of that rubble. Those are the lucky ones. Some are still underneath the rubble, trapped, and they're trying to get them out.

We have got crews in Port-au-Prince. Anderson Cooper is among them. I understand we also are going to shortly be able to go to Susan Candiotti. You are going to hear from Haitian officials during this hour. And you are also going to hear from Governor Charlie Crist of the state of Florida, who is going to be joining us live as well.

Chad Myers is going to help us me get through this hour. He certainly knows as much as anybody about this type of situation...

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right.

SANCHEZ: ... especially the type of earthquake that's taken place in Haiti.

Let me read something to you, Chad, as we get going here. This is from "The Miami Herald." I check my hometown newspaper from time to time, as we all do. This is the Haitian president, Rene Preval, talking to them. And he says: "Parliament is collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed."

And this is in the capital. This is the biggest city there. Let me get back to you in just a moment. I understand we now have a possibility of going back into Port-au-Prince.

Susan Candiotti is standing by.

Susan, are you there?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I am, Rick. I hear you. Thank you very much.

We had to go up to a mountaintop, one of the many here, in order to get a signal out, so, over my shoulder, you will see some of the thousands of -- of homes that are built into the side of the mountains here that these ones that you see over my shoulder, incredibly, were not impacted by the earthquake.

But as we flew from the Dominican Republic, from Santo Domingo into Port-au-Prince, we began to see right away some of the devastation caused by this earthquake. And we saw, for one thing, a lot of homes that were imploded. It looked as though they had been imploded.

And then, when we finally set down our helicopter at the airport here, we saw cracks in the airport. We saw people teeming outside, lined up, but, patiently, without causing any problem, waiting to see whether they could get a commercial flight out.

There was no way that was going to happen. But the real impact was when we started to drive through the streets of Port-au-Prince, in particular, one of the neighborhoods called Delmas, where our driver told us, you are going to see a lot of death here.

And, in fact, that's exactly what we saw. As we drove block after block, we saw one first body, then two bodies, then three, then four at a time, then five lined up block after block after block, each of these covered by sheets.

And then, in an almost chilling scene, you would see people in some instances sitting nearby, some of them with vacant stares in their eyes just sitting in the middle of the street. At times, you would see young children walking about, as though seeing this horror didn't bother them.

And you had to wonder, is that because this country has suffered so much and through so many natural disasters over so many years? But you also saw a sense of people trying to help each other. For example, as we drove up a major thoroughfare teeming with people, you saw people walking down the middle of the street using a makeshift gurney, with someone who was injured, one of the earthquake victims, on top.

And you saw collapsed buildings one right after the other pancaked down, both homes and businesses, for example, a gas station that had crumbled.

We also were able to witness one gas station, incredibly, that was open and had gas. And you can imagine what those lines looked like. But this is a country that has suffered yet another blow, almost three million people in the city of Port-au-Prince, the capital city, major damage to the national palace.

We have not yet been to any of the hospitals yet, but, again, we have heard some of the estimates of numbers of dead. And we can only begin to imagine how those numbers will actually add up in the end after seeing just what we did over the course of just a few hours -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: What a visual script you have just given us, Susan. That is maybe one of the best and most comprehensive reports that I have heard coming out of Port-au-Prince all day long.

Let me ask you the question about Port-au-Prince itself. Given that this earthquake was so close to the capital city, maybe the best way to ask it is this way. What is left of Port-au-Prince?

CANDIOTTI: Well, the downtown area has suffered a lot of damage, and some of the other buildings and homes, obviously, up into the hills, but then you will also see off in the distance areas that seem untouched.

As we flew in on the outskirts, we didn't see a lot of damage, but we saw several buildings that had been damaged. So, how widespread it is, is hard to say on the outskirts, but in the city -- and we have just begun to look around -- it is terrible. It is just terrible and it is heartbreaking to see.

SANCHEZ: Susan Candiotti, thank you so much. We appreciate you hustling too to gets us that information.

CANDIOTTI: And, fact, I could add, Rick, if I could...

SANCHEZ: Go ahead. Please.

CANDIOTTI: And if I could add as well, if you can still hear me, I know that people here...

SANCHEZ: Oh, what a shame. We lost her just as -- you know what we will do? We will try and see if we can get Susan Candiotti back. She seemed to have a caveat that she wanted to add to that.

The significance of this thing being so close to a populated area -- you and I cover these type of disasters a lots, whether they're tornadic -- tornadoes or earthquakes. But this one was, what are they saying, Chad, 10 miles from the most populated city in the country? MYERS: Yes, and only six miles deep. I think that's the key. The key here is that this quake, the rupture that occurred, the slip that occurred in the fault was only six miles into the earth.

If we were 200 miles down, you would have 200 miles worth of padding, 200 miles work of attenuation, so, by the time the quake got to the surface, it wouldn't have been so rupture -- it wouldn't have been so sharp. This was a sharp cracking motion at the surface of the earth, six miles deep and only a few miles from the city. So, we have a couple of waves.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS: Go ahead.

SANCHEZ: I'm just wondering, who knew that there was even a fault line here? I was born in the Caribbean. I didn't know that it was as earthquake prone as it apparently is.

MYERS: It is called it is the Enriquillo-Capatian (ph) Garden fault zone.

SANCHEZ: Wow. That was a mouthful.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS: It's a whole thing.

SANCHEZ: Well, these islands were all created by many of these earthquakes, right?

MYERS: Correct. Correct.

The biggest fault and the biggest quake that these people have had was 200 years ago. The pressure has been building up since that last big quake. And it's an inverse relationship. The more earthquakes you have, the smaller they're going to be. The fewer earthquakes you have, the bigger they're going to be.

SANCHEZ: That makes sense.

MYERS: The same problem with the New Madrid area is in the central parts of the U.S. When that cracks, when that splits -- not if, when -- it will be a big one. It may be tens of years. It may be hundreds of years.

SANCHEZ: Boy, I will tell you, you are so good at explaining these types of things and making up -- helping us understand.

MYERS: I will be here all day.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Stay with us, right, through the hour?

MYERS: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: All right, here's what else we're going to have. It has been 200 years since Haiti has been rocked by an earthquake of this size. You should know that Haiti is a country roughly the size of Maryland. I am going to be monitoring thousands of tweets from and about Haiti throughout this hour. And I have also now composed a specific list on my Twitter my page to follow this story.

In fact, here's an example of some of these tweets that we're going to be following. Take a look at this one. I will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

Forty thousand to forty-five thousand Americans are living in Haiti. In fact, the U.S. occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. Our troops were sent in by President Woodrow Wilson.

As I give you that factoid, let me give you something else. The big news today seems to be coming out of the airport in Port-au- Prince, which has been closed because of this because of this earthquake.

Chris Lawrence is standing by now to bring us up to date on what's going on there.

Chris, this is one of the first times today that we get a chance to get to this airport, to get information. So, let us know what you know about when this thing's going to be open.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rick, I think the most important thing I can tell you right now is that we have not seen any relief flights coming in for the past few hours.

And I just want to show you some live pictures right now of the scene right here. I mean, you can take a look over here. You can see a lot of people just sleeping on the ground, laying on the ground. Most of these people just have nowhere to go.

And as we take the camera back over here, I just want to show you and give you a sense of just how many people are here. You know, you can take a look. We're only able to show you this one area. But all of these people have been out here pretty much all day, simply impossible for them to get out of Port-au-Prince right now.

Some of them live here in Haiti, trying to get out. Others live in other countries in the Caribbean. And there are many Americans as well. You see some of the folks in these orange shirts, a lot of them around. They were part of a big youth ministry that was here.

And, Clark (ph), you're from Fort Myers, Florida. You were here. Tell us your incredible story of what happened when the earthquake hit and the children that you were trying to save.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we was in a two-story building with a lot of the children on the first floor. And I was up in the second floor. And it just started trembling terrible, probably for 60 to 90 seconds.

Everything was flying everywhere. And we ran downstairs and we started grabbing kids, four or five of them at a time, and just throwing them to the door. All the houses around us totally collapsed. Not one of them was left standing, but the one we were in. And it's still standing.

And every one of us are alive. Nobody's hurt. So, if anybody knows my kids in Fort Myers, tell them I'm alive and their mom's alive. And Jacob Fester (ph) from Tampa, he's alive. We're all well. And the kids are all well. Not one of them was hurt, not even a scratch.

LAWRENCE: And, really, your story is repeated by so many people here, no cell service, no way to get word to their families, families all over the United States just worried sick about people like you who are down here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We're just trying to get out of here and we will get home as quick as we can. But that might be two days, three days. Who knows.

LAWRENCE: OK.

All right, Rick, just giving you some sense of what's out here, just tremendous amount of damage in this city and a tremendous amount of frustration here, as people have nothing else to do but just to lay here on the street and the ground and wait for some word about when they might be able to get out -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Good stuff, Chris. We thank you for -- there's a lot of folks here in the United States who have, as you mentioned, family members, relatives or friends there. They need that information. I'm glad that you were able to provide it for us.

Chris Lawrence, one of a team of reporters who have arrived there in Haiti and will be following this story all throughout. But, you know, there's a big part of this story that is actually taking place in the United States, specifically in South Florida.

There are some 350,000 Haitians living in South Florida. For Governor Charlie Crist, this is one very busy day. There, you see him. I have been monitoring his comings and goings throughout the day as he meets with community leaders and tries to take care of the problems that are coming about. It's been a sleepless night for him and for his aides. He's going to join us in just a little bit. Stay there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Being from South Florida, I know just how deep this hurt is for the people there, 350,000 Haitians, as I mentioned earlier, living in the United States, many of them living in South Florida. And that makes it the governor of Florida's job to come to the aid of so many of these people.

Having lived there so long, I can only imagine what's going on today in Florida. He is being joined, by the way, by State Representative Yolly Roberson. She was born in Haiti.

My condolences. And my thanks to both of you for being with us.

Governor Crist, let me begin with you.

What have you been able to tell, what have you been able to do for some of the people in South Florida, who I know are leaning on you so much right now?

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: Well, first and foremost, to provide some hope for an awful lot of people that have family members just like Yolly does over in Haiti.

One of the things we did early this morning was go from Tallahassee down to Miami. We went to the emergency operations center with the mayor, Carlos Alvarez, just explaining to people that we have an awful lot of resources available to Florida that, usually, we would utilize for hurricanes.

Thank God, the past three years, we haven't had them, but we have got about 65,000 MREs, or meals ready to eat. We have got a lot of water that we can supply to the island, if necessary, cots, blankets, things of that nature, and just to let our friends at the federal level that Florida is here to help our neighbor nation, Haiti, in this tough time.

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, I remember -- you know -- as being a cop beat reporter down there for so many years, you and I had talked about several of these issues, but some of the best police units, some of the best canine units, some of the best disaster relief teams are located right there in South Florida. Any chance that you might be able to let the Haitian government borrow them for the next week or so?

CRIST: Well, in fact, that's happening, Rick. That's a great point. And you're absolutely right.

We have two rescue units that now have been federalized, meaning that they are going to be deploying this afternoon to the island to be helpful with the dogs that they have and their great skill and talent to be able to try to rescue people that may still be, you know, under some of the structures that have fallen on Haiti.

SANCHEZ: Yolly, how hard is this for you?

YOLLY ROBERSON (D), FLORIDA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Rick, it is very, very hard, because don't forget I left Haiti when I was very young, but my heart is still there.

And seeing those people there, it could have been easily me sitting there. So, it is just like my family is still hurting. And I just thank God for Governor Crist, who mobilized the entire state of Florida. All night last night, he worked with his staff, with Dave Halstead, the emergency management director, many, many different people in the state of Florida, to make sure that Florida stands ready to help the people of Haiti.

SANCHEZ: Let me show you something.

If you could, Robert, get a shot of the Twitter board, if you can, over here. I do something called Rick's List, where I list people who are relevant to any specific story. Today, we're collecting people who are through -- who know Haiti or have associations with the Haitian government.

This person, Lee Cohen, says: "Just got back from Haiti last night. So frustrated not knowing if my friends back there are OK. What is going on? All circuits are busy."

What do you say to people in the United States who somehow want to help or want to communicate with loved ones, and can't?

CRIST: Well, there's a way to do that.

The best way right now, frankly, is to be able to donate money through a fund that we have set up here in Florida. Floridadisaster.org/recovery is a Web site people can go to, to utilize in order to help people out.

In terms of finding out and getting better communication, Yolly was telling me earlier that being able to text was the best way to get through.

You may want to elaborate on that, Yolly.

ROBERSON: Thank you, Governor.

Right now, the way that people are trying to communicate with their loved ones here in Florida or in the nation is through social networking and especially texting. I just text my cousin who is in Haiti, just letting him know that I'm praying for him. And also he was able to text us to let us know that his wife was hurt, but he himself is fine.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: Any chance that you guys will be able to somehow within the next couple of days compile a master list that people can check of people who have survived?

And, as a caveat to that, let me also ask, Governor, we have gotten reports here at CNN that there may be hundreds of thousands of people dead. What can you say about that?

CRIST: Well, it's astounding, number one. And it's just one of the saddest scenarios you can imagine, I mean, to have that happen right here so close to our state of Florida, with so many loved ones that live in the state. You indicated earlier, Rick, coming on this story that close to 400,000 Floridians are Haitian-American. And so it's a very desperate time and it's a very sad time.

So, we're trying to do everything we can to marshal our resources, to provide hope, to reach out to people, like members of Yolly's family, to do everything that we can to provide that comfort that is so important at the outset.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: But no master list that you have been able to put together right now? I imagine it's still too early, right. OK.

CRIST: Not as yet, no, sir, not at this time.

SANCHEZ: And as far as the numbers of hundreds of thousands of people may be losing their lives in this thing, Yolly, what have you heard? We got that information from the prime minister. But we haven't been able to independently confirm it. What do you know?

ROBERSON: We have not been able to confirm it here either.

Rick, it is very difficult to ascertain how many people died, because the way we keep -- we have not had a real census in Haiti. Port-au-Prince is a city that should accommodate 250,000 people. We have well over three million people living in Haiti and (INAUDIBLE) and they're not accounted for. So, we don't really know.

SANCHEZ: OK. My thanks to both of you, yeoman's work.

Governor, I'm sure the people there appreciate your efforts

Yolly, ditto.

We will keep in touch with you all and hopefully we will help in any way that we can as well here at CNN.

CRIST: Thank you, Rick.

ROBERSON: Thank you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: No, our pleasure.

If there's one American city that feels like home away from home for Haitians, it is Miami. It is the place where I grew up. It is where many of my best friends and neighbors are Haitian.

We mentioned this moments ago. It's a staggering number, almost 400,000 Haitians living in the United States, most of them there in South Florida. These are the scenes coming from South Florida today, as members of the Haitian community, a very devout people, are joining hands in churches praying for their friends and family.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: I mentioned to you the very first interview the president of Haiti did was with "The Miami Herald." I quoted him earlier as I was reading my hometown newspaper.

He said: "I have been walking over dead bodies, hearing cries of trapped victims. My country is destroyed. Parliament is collapsed. The tax office is collapsed. Schools are collapsed. And so are hospitals."

That's the president of Haiti who gave that information to "The Miami Herald." So, throughout the day, we have been trying to make contact with Haitian President Rene Preval.

My colleague Sanjay Gupta has just arrived in Haiti within the last couple of hours, and I understand he's just done an interview with the Haitian president.

Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What are you doing here at the airport?

RENE PREVAL, HAITIAN PRESIDENT: My palace collapsed.

GUPTA: So, you don't have a home?

PREVAL: So, I came here to (INAUDIBLE) but they told me that I cannot (INAUDIBLE) here because it is not safe. So, I'm going home.

GUPTA: You're going to go back to your home?

PREVAL: Are you able to live in the palace, or is it completely destroyed?

PREVAL: I cannot live in the palace. I cannot live in my own house, because the two collapsed.

GUPTA: Where are you going to go tonight?

PREVAL: I don't know.

GUPTA: It is striking. The president of this country doesn't know where he's going to sleep tonight.

PREVAL: No. I have plenty of time to look for a bed, but now I am working how to rescue the people. But sleeping is not a problem.

GUPTA: Well, what have you seen with your own eyes? How bad a situation is it?

PREVAL: It's incredible. You have to see it to believe it, a lot of houses destroyed, hospital, schools, the personal homes, a lot of people in the street dead.

GUPTA: You have seen this with your own eyes?

PREVAL: The earthquake took place yesterday at 5:00 in the -- and I'm still...

GUPTA: In your same clothing.

PREVAL: ... looking for -- to understand the magnitude of the event and how to manage it.

GUPTA: What is the worst thing -- what is the worst thing that you saw so far?

PREVAL: People in the street for two days now without the capacity to bring them to the hospital.

GUPTA: I'm so sorry to hear that, Mr. President. What do you need? What does Haiti need right now from the rest of the world?

PREVAL: For the earthquake, we have to first clean up the street. A lot of people, they left their cars in the street. They are afraid when the earthquake occurred. And there is a lot of garbage, cement in the street. So we have to clean up the street so the...

GUPTA: The rescue workers?

PREVAL: The rescue workers, they can work.

GUPTA: That's priority number one?

PREVAL: Yes.

Number two, we need the doctor, we need medicine, we need medical help in general. Some of the hospitals, they collapsed. The hospitals, they are full, and they put people outside the hospital. So we need some hospitals, some medicine, and some doctors.

GUPTA: How many people do you think have died?

PREVAL: I don't know.

GUPTA: Do you have any idea at all? What have you been told by your staff?

PREVAL: Up to now I heard 50,000.

GUPTA: So far 50,000?

PREVAL: I heard 30,000. I saw on the CNN, 100,000 casualties. Let's say that it's too early to give a number.

GUPTA: How dangerous is it right now? How dangerous is it in Port-au-Prince?

PREVAL: There are risks that the house continues to collapse. There are risks of epidemic. GUPTA: Epidemics?

PREVAL: Epidemics.

GUPTA: How about violence in from people who are desperate who want food, who want water. Are you worried about violence breaking out in Port-au-Prince?

PREVAL: No. The people, they understand the situation. And they see that everybody is doing the best to help them, so I don't think we will have violence.

GUPTA: Is there a message right now that you want to give to the rest of the world? As president of Haiti, what do you want to say to the rest of the world?

PREVAL: I want to thank -- I want to thank all the countries that started to help us. The United States, France, Canada, Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Israel.

GUPTA: Do you have any idea how much it will cost to rebuild Haiti?

PREVAL: I don't know.

GUPTA: Mr. President, thank you very much.

PREVAL: Thank you.

GUPTA: Good luck.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: There you have it, the first broadcast interview with the president of Haiti. A remarkable job under those conditions by Dr. Sanjay Gupta to get to the scene and get an interview with President Preval for the very first time.

An interesting country that I've gotten to know only too well as a journalist throughout my career, a country that has gone through rebellions, revolutions, wars, hurricanes, tornadoes, and now this earthquake.

And to hear the president at the outset of that interview tell Sanjay Gupta, "I have no place to sleep tonight." The president of Haiti has no place to sleep tonight is certainly as telling as anything we've heard thus far in this story.

By the way, one another footnote I need to mention to you as we move forward. We here at CNN, let me be clear about this. We at CNN because you heard this part of the conversation the president was having with Sanjay.

Again, we at CNN have not independently confirmed how many people have died as a result of this earthquake. What we did was we filed a report earlier in the day where there of the possibility of hundreds of thousands. That was not President Preval who said that, rather it was the prime minister who had made that comment and we reported it.

At this point, neither we nor most rescue officials on the scene are not saying exactly how many people have died. You just heard the president there mention maybe 30,000, maybe 50,000. But to be honest with you from covering these types of events it is really much too early to tell.

Keep in mind, this quake was a 7.0. In an average year around the globe there are 17 earthquakes between a 7 and 7.9. That tells you just how big this thing was.

As we go to break, I want you to look at Rick's List. We're getting comments from all the folks who we can get information from, who are relevant to this story. Senator Kristin Gillibrand, for example. She writes, "My hope is that the White House will grant temporary protected status to Haitians who fled the U.S. due to past violence and disasters in Haiti."

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: I understand the U.S. Coast Guard has just concluded a briefing and we'll be able to talk to Republican U.S. senator who was in that briefing. But before we do that, we also have some Coast Guard video that we've been examining that's been coming in to us.

I want to share that one. This is Nat two, Rog, if you've got it. Here it is. All right, we've got this video. I'm going to hang tight here because I want you to see this. Whenever we get a chance to look at some new video that comes in from Haiti, I want to be able to show it to you.

This one was described to us as an interview originally with the prime minister and also some video that involved the U.S. Coast Guard. We called it Nat two 2 if you guys remember. Do we have it now or do you want me to go to George Lemieux? Let me know what you have that, by the way.

Republican Senator George LeMieux was good enough to join us now. I understand you just got out of a briefing, sir. First of all, thanks for being with us. My condolences to many of your constituents. And what have you learned?

SEN. GEORGE LEMIEUX, FLORIDA: Well, Rick, we've learned that the effort is on to bring supplies, needed supplies and recovery efforts to the people of Haiti. We have two Coast Guard cutters now that are off of Port-au-Prince, the Forward and the Mohawk.

The Forward is providing the air traffic control to all of the planes that are trying to fly in to Haiti because the tower at the airport has been compromised.

And we have two other Coast Guard cutters that are staging now, one at Guantanamo, and they're going to bring supplies in tomorrow. The Navy, I talked to General Frazier at south command here, SouthCom, and the Navy is preparing to bring in ships tomorrow.

And we're going to try to get our first responders in even here from Miami-Dade County search and rescue, because as we know and your pictures are showing, there are a lot of collapsed buildings. We're getting stories of collapsed school, collapsed hotels, collapsed office buildings, and we know there are people underneath those buildings.

SANCHEZ: Senator, as you know, if you are right, and we believe you are, and there are many, possibly countless people still trapped underneath that rubble, it really is a race against time.

How soon can you get some of the k-9 teams and some of the rescue units there? And are you making that the priority right now above anything else -- can you say that?

LEMIEUX: Well, that's what my priority is and I've been stressing to the military, the Coast Guard, and all that I speak to about getting those first responders in. You're exactly right. Time is against us.

An earthquake is terrible. The timing of this earthquake was even worse, to be right before night fell. We're approaching 24 hours since the earthquake.

We have one team, as I understand it, a search and rescue team from Virginia that should get there today. And then we're hoping to let Miami go in. We need them to get cleared from the State Department to go. I've called the State Department to do that.

We need these first responders, these folks are world renowned here in the Miami and other cities in America. They've gone in, as you know, all over the world to help in these situations. We've got to get them in there and save the lives of the people who are trapped under the rubble.

SANCHEZ: Senator, good stuff. My thanks to you, sir, for joining us, and again, as I said to the governor just a short time ago when I spoke to him, if there's anything we at CNN can do to help out, we can certainly do so. My thanks again, sir.

LEMIEUX: Thank you so much, Rick.

SANCHEZ: All right, someone else who has a south Florida legacy is Emilio Estefan. He is one of the most powerful voices in south Florida. He's reached out to us, and he'll be joining me to talk as well about the situation in south Florida, the crisis in Haiti.

And also Frost Michael from the group Fugees, he's from Haiti, and we'll see what he and the music industry friends are doing to help Haiti as our special coverage of this breaking news story, "Disaster in Haiti" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: As you know, I use my Twitter list to get relevant information to share with you. News, really, that's what this is.

Listen to what the Red Cross just tweeted, and I want to share it with you right away -- "Deploying six disaster management specialists to Haiti to help coordinate relief. These join the staff of 15 we already have on the ground there." Again, that is from the American Red Cross, just tweeted several minutes ago. Our thanks to them.

Meanwhile, the very latest on this earthquake that has really just devastated Haiti. Haiti's prime minister is telling CNN the quake that hit the Haitian capital may have left hundreds of thousands of people dead. But we spoke with the president just a short time ago, who said his number is closer to 50,000. We will continue to try and nail that one down for you.

There is no way at all to confirm, by the way, the prime minister's estimate nor the president's estimate at this point. And as you may have heard right here, the president has been speaking to our correspondents, including Sanjay Gupta. And we are going to continue to follow that.

In any case, as we continue to follow the story it appears to be a disaster of historic magnitude. Huge swathes of Port-au-Prince lay in ruins right now. Phone service is out and electricity is out. Supplies of fresh water are running low.

President Obama is pledging support, no dollar figure yet, and he's asking private citizens to do their part.

By the way, the most important part of this story, as I just discussed moments ago with Senator LeMieux is, literally, there are people right now who are trapped under tons of debris. They are screaming for help, and no one can get to them.

That is the priority in this story at this point, and that is why we're drilling down on that and asking many of Florida's leaders and U.S. representatives how soon before they can get search and rescue teams down there to help out.

Also this -- Emilio Estefan is an activist and one of Miami's most important voices. So, of course, is his wife Gloria Estefan. Emilio will join me live in just a moment on this.

And after a plethora of questionable leaders like Papa Doc Duvalier and General Cedras, Jean-Bertrand Astride was elected in Haiti's first free election. Jean-Bertrand Astride, the winner in that race. That was, believe it or not, almost 20 years ago.

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SANCHEZ: One of the best known Haitian-Americans in the United States is part of the entertainment world. His name is Wyclef Jean. You may have heard of him. We got a tweet. He's one of the people that we're following on one of my twitter lists. And there you see what he says.

He says "I'm on my way to the DR, Dominican Republic, to get into Haiti. Please urge you councilmen, governors, et cetera, we need a state of emergency for Haiti."

Again, Wyclef Jean, who is part of the Fugees, who is one of the best known entertainers in the United States.

A colleague of his is Pras Michelle, and Pras is a Grammy award- winning Haitian-American musician. He's also good enough to join us to let us know what he's hearing from both by the country and the folks who are trying to help the people inside that country.

Let me first of all say, my condolences to you, your friends and family, Pras. Thanks for helping us.

PRAS MICHEL, MUSICIAN: Thank you very much, Rick.

SANCHEZ: What's the situation? What are you hearing from friends and family down there, and what can we do to help you?

MICHEL: Well, basically I heard from a close friend of mine this morning. She basically said the capital is flattened. The hospital has been destroyed. The whole city is in shambles.

What he can do is help my constituent Wyclef Jean, type 501501, and $5 will automatically go to donation.

SANCHEZ: I remember Port-au-Prince as a magnificently vibrant city. Obviously it's filled with signs of poverty throughout, but it still had been able to keep some of its history.

Roger, if you can, put up some of the pictures we've getting of Port-au-Prince. I can't help but imagine what it's like to be from a country that's sustained something so dramatic where a third of its population is affected by one disaster. Imagine that happening here in the United States, one third of the people affected by this thing.

What are your thoughts as you look at these pictures?

MICHEL: Well, my thought is basically I think that the government of Haiti should be held accountable, because all these years, all this international aid has been going down to Haiti, they haven't done much with it in building the infrastructure.

One of the first things, I want to thank president Obama for quickly acting for this tragedy that's happened down in Haiti. And I also spoke to a colleague of mine from his administration, Jason McCall, and they're acting very quickly about this. And now it's time to hold the government accountable.

SANCHEZ: When you say the government, going back to Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier, are you talking about the General Raul Sedras? Are you talking about President Aristide, or are you talking about the present president Preval?

MICHEL: I think it's a chain. Papa Doc, one might argue, was actually good for Haiti. At that time, Haiti went to the World Cup, there was peace, some form of prosperity. He still was a dictator. And then his son came in, Baby Doc, it was horrible. But then Aristide came in and he did actually nothing for the country. And now we have Preval who has been there for about four, five years, and he hasn't done much either. So it's the same thing.

We need to stop that, we need some transparency, we need accountability. And I think unfortunately this is going to help to hold these government officials accountable. Like Wyclef said, these should not be happening. Every Haitian lives on $2 a day. That's unacceptable.

SANCHEZ: Pras Michelle with some harsh reaction to the political situation as well as the fundamental situation after an earthquake that's going on right now. My thanks to you, sir, for taking time to talk to us.

MICHEL: Thank you very much

SANCHEZ: When I come back, Emilio Estefan on the situation that's going on in Haiti, something that's heartfelt for him, being a resident of south Florida where many of his neighbors are Haitian- Americans. We will be right back with Emilio Estefan.

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SANCHEZ: One of the most successful members of the entertainment world, along with his wife Gloria in the United States, certainly, and in the world, as I mentioned. This is Emilio Estefan.

He comes to us on a day when we had planned to talk to him about "The Rhythm of Success," a new book that he has written about being an immigrant, a successful immigrant in the United States, wanting to share his personal experiences.

But sadly enough, today this situation is taking place in Haiti. And anything that happens in Haiti, just like anything that happens in Cuba, affects south Florida.

Emilio, first of all, thanks for being with us. Let me ask you your thoughts on this crisis.

EMILIO ESTEFAN, PRODUCER, ENTREPRENEUR, AND AUTHOR: Thank you very much, Rick. Of course, all the people in south Florida were so devastated and pained with everything that's happening. It's a sad day not only for Haiti, but for the world. They lost so many lives.

This morning me and Gloria, we contacted Mark Green in Miami at the Jackson memorial and we made a donation. And definitely as soon as I get back to Miami, we'll be able to do a lot of things to be sure that, you know, we help and we help in the right directions, things to help.

I think the worst is to come now, because the first day people are in panic, and now the second, the third, and the fourth days is when the whole chaos will be happening in Haiti. SANCHEZ: I remember after hurricane Andrew in south Florida, you and Gloria got together and probably did as much as anyone had done in that community, not only with your music and of course your money, donations, but your time.

Do you seeing this for many folks in south Florida as something that's analogous that that we went through? Do you see this as analogous to that?

ESTEFAN: It's something so different, because at least we live in the United States. But when you live in Haiti, where it's so difficult to get things to the country, and so many poor people. They've been through three hurricanes last year.

And so when I saw the images last night, I hardly could sleep, because I thought how do we help? My first thing is to say how can you help the country?

And especially since we're so close to a lot of Haitian people in Miami that we love and they're doing such great work, hard work in Miami. So I think it's time that people realize that, you know, even if we go through tough times, we need to share and be able to help.

I know I'm here in New York now, and I can see a lot of doctors now trying to find ways to go there. They're going to need a lot of help, from water to food to doctors.

And every time you see images now, you definitely feel so sad. And we're blessed to live in a country where we can share. The United States definitely is an incredible country. I heard the president took decisions right away, you know, to help. And, you know this country is unbelievable.

SANCHEZ: Let me say this, the United States is an incredible country for people like you and me who weren't born here, who are immigrants, who came to the United States. Here's a quote from your book, and I love this quote -- "If I wanted to do something, I began by believe that I could," you write.

"I arrived in United States with the clothes on my back and nothing but a suitcase full of dreams and a heart filled with hope and optimism." And today you and Gloria are probably as wildly successful as anybody who's ever done what you did.

What's the real message here? You know, because we're talking today about Haitian Americans in the United States who are suffering on this day. As immigrants, I know from time to time we all suffer. But what's the message here that you want to get out with this book?

ESTEFAN: You know, the message is even if you are an immigrant, this is one of the best, generous countries in the whole world. And I know when things like this happen, this country always helps any other countries all over the world.

And I think Haiti is definitely a country that will need so much help, because they are so poor and they are in so much need. And I know there will be a lot of people getting there.

My only recommendation, because I know this from the past, like you mention, is to do it in an organized way, to be sure they're not able to sell them.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

ESTEFAN: I think what they need right is doctors, and they need money, probably, that they can use to help the people there.