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Magnitude 7.0 Earthquake Leaves Haiti in Ruins; Eyewitness Accounts the Moment the Earthquake Struck; Who's to Blame for Crisis?; Haiti Barely Hanging On

Aired January 13, 2010 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks very much for being with us on the Most News in the Morning on this Wednesday, the 13th of January. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kiran Chetry. We're glad you're with us and we're following breaking news this morning, what is being called a disaster of major proportions, a catastrophe, and a growing humanitarian crisis in Haiti this morning. Here's what we know right now.

A major earthquake registering 7.0 struck just after 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time yesterday, virtually destroying the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. The Red Cross says three million people have been affected. There have been since 28 aftershocks, the strongest registering 5.9. And many of the dead and wounded were literally left lying in the streets, even as they hit. The headquarters, the U.N. mission there has also collapsed, and so has parts of the presidential palace.

ROBERTS: Landlines are also down. The only place that many victims and many family members in the United States have to turn for information is social media. CNN has set up a Haiti desk to monitor the pleas for help and bring you many of the heart wrenching stories and pictures that the survivors want the world to see.

CHETRY: And officials say they cannot even begin to guess how many casualties there are. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and there is barely any emergency response to speak of. Pentagon officials say that they're already working on shipments of humanitarian aid, but getting there will be tough, since the control tower at the airport in Port-au-Prince is gone.

ROBERTS: Scenes of horror and devastation in Haiti this morning, 13 hours after a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook the capital city of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area. Still not clear how many people are dead at this point and how much more misery has been heaped on the most desperate, disaster-prone country in the western hemisphere. But one thing is certain from eyewitness accounts, this is an unimaginable disaster.

We're using the global resources of CNN to bring you the most complete coverage of the earthquake in Haiti this morning. Here is what we know right now about the chaos and the carnage facing three million people in Haiti's capital.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The world is coming to an end.

ROBERTS (voice-over): When the earth mercifully stopped shaking, an ominous cloud of dust and smoke blanketed the capital of Port-au- Prince. When it's settled about 20 minutes later, it revealed nothing but misery.

All you can hear according to witnesses was the sound of victims wailing. People trapped under chunks of concrete everywhere. Street after street in ruin.

Some buildings burning. Many others collapsed. Even the presidential palace came down. No match for the massive quake and its trailing aftershocks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of (INAUDIBLE) everything was just falling apart.

ROBERTS: These people lived through the nightmare. They're Miami-bound American Airlines flight was the last one to leave Port- au-Prince, taking off about 90 minutes after the earthquake hit. Passengers describe the devastation they left behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were crying and, you know, the roof, like the ceiling was falling. And there was no place to hide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole building was cracked down. I mean, it looks like a building that they need to build from point A to point Z right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you talking about the airport?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The airport. It's pretty cracked up.

ROBERTS: The condition of the Port-au-Prince airport could be key to relief efforts today. Urban search and rescue teams like this one in Fairfax, Virginia, waiting into the early morning hours for clearance to deploy to Haiti.

DAVID ROHR, FAIRFAX FIRE AND RESCUE: We're able to break reinforced concrete and do technical search which means sound and video and all that. So we'll have -- we'll have our fullest capability with us to go.


CHETRY: Well, again, this is the worst quake to hit that region in more than 200 years. And as dawn breaks in Haiti this morning, the scope of the disaster is becoming a bit clearer. We still don't have any official word on the number of people killed or injured, but people that are on the scene there in Haiti expect the number of dead to be very high. ROBERTS: And as we have said, the capital city of Port-au-Prince is in shambles, the destruction widespread from the hills of Petionville all the way down to the port.

Our Susan Candiotti filed a report by phone from the Dominican Republic as she is trying to make her way into Haiti this morning.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): We are boarding a helicopter to Port-au-Prince from Santo Domingo. The roads are far too dangerous to drive during the night. At daybreak, the extent of the devastation becomes even more dramatic for Haitians, more traumatizing. They are plunged into depths of despair, suffering not only the initial quake but a series of strong aftershocks.

Flimsy homes collapsing. Others (INAUDIBLE) floors pancaking on top of the other. Even the national palace in Port-au-Prince is heavily damaged.

In Petionville, where diplomats and other professionals often live, a hospital is said to be heavily damaged. Emergency crews are trying to help, but until more international relief teams arrive, people are helping each other, digging themselves out among cries for help.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, en route to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


ROBERTS: Is it possible that there were warning signs about an earthquake of this size that might have gone unheeded? Our Rob Marciano is following that part of the story. He'll be joining us in just a moment. But this is a report from a fellow who was a professor at the University of Havana, 2008, I believe, was when this report was released.

CHETRY: Right. And he basically warned, taking a look at the fault line that sits under Port-au-Prince saying that this region is due for and will be seeing an earthquake. And I believe he said a 7.2 magnitude and here we are today with a 7.0 magnitude.

But when they say were warning signs missed, I mean, what could possibly Haiti do, though? I mean, this is a nation as we know, the most impoverished in the western hemisphere. They don't really don't have building codes. Many of their buildings are sort of cobbled together. So what could they have done? I mean, they're not going to be able to retrofit all of those buildings.

ROBERTS: No, and there's typically no warning that an earthquake is going to hit. It's, you know, you might have a probability that one is going to occur.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: But, you know, when it hits is anybody's guess and it's just a sudden jolt and there's just no warning about that.

Rob Marciano tracking what's going on with the earthquake and the aftershocks. He's in the weather center in Atlanta. What have you got for us this morning, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, I stopped counting, John, but well over 20 aftershocks since this thing hit. And when you talk about predicting earthquakes, I mean, that sort of science is still very, very new and at this point not very scientific. But like John said, it really has more to do with the probabilities. You know, you have an intense fault line, you've got a subduction zone, you've got an area that has a history of producing major earthquakes.

Well, when was the last time that happened? Fifty years ago, or 100 years ago? Then yes, you're due. And this particular area was due. And there were a number of reports that came out in '05, '06 that were really starting to raise a red flag, more so because of the probability.

All right. Here we go, 7.0 magnitude. Major quake there. Ten miles southwest of Port-au-Prince.

The problem with this particular island, very, very mountainous. So you've got -- you've got an area not just around the flat area where the cities are, but in the outskirts of the cities where it's still very, very populated. You have rugged terrain and that rugged terrain now can easily just come down, and as you mentioned, we're looking at building codes that are pretty much nonexistent.

All right. The bigger picture of this, you pretty much have something similar that to the San Andreas fault, although not as large and not quite as active, obviously. But we have plates that are colliding, and in this particular case, coming into a subduction zone right here. So this is the Caribbean plate and this is the North American plate. And as they come together in this arc right here, and this volcanic and subduction zone arc is where we have these islands.

Now, islands similar to the Aleutian Islands, similar to the Ring of Fire. This is a Lesser Antilles Island volcanic arc that's produced by these two plates coming together. And what I found to be interesting and I forgot about this, because I hadn't really been following this the last six or 12 months, that Puerto Rican trench, which is pretty much where the ocean floor just drops off because these two plates collide and subduct goes down over 25,000 feet. It is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean and it's just a few miles off the shore of Puerto Rico and in this case the island of Hispaniola.

So it's an area of the world, John and Kiran, that has kind of gone under the radar if you're not a hardcore geologist. But here we are today, and everybody obviously, it's front and center with a catastrophic earthquake event. And we'll have more, more aftershocks, no doubt about it today and probably in the days to come.

CHETRY: Yes, they're describing more than 25 so far. All right, Rob. Thanks so much. We'll check in with you a little bit later as well for our national forecast.

And if you're trying to find out about a loved one in Haiti or you want to know more about how to help, we have some information for you.

The State Department has now set up a hotline. This is for information for family members in Haiti, and the number is 888-407- 4747. You can also text Haiti to 90999, and this is to donate $10 to emergency relief efforts. If you do send that text, $10 will be charged on your cell phone bill. You can also make donations at

ROBERTS: And you can follow CNN's coverage of the earthquake in Haiti on Twitter at and follow the disaster, the latest on the disaster response at as well.

CHETRY: All right. Well, some of the most compelling pictures are coming in from iReports. As we talked about there's no electricity. Very, very hard to communicate there. But these cell phone pictures and videos are coming in and we're monitoring them from our Haiti desk. We're going to see some of those pictures of the devastation in Haiti in just a moment.

It's nine minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back. Well, if you're just waking up, it's now 11 minutes past the hour. We're following breaking news out of Haiti where thousands are feared dead after yesterday's catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake that hit the capital Port-au-Prince. Aid agencies are responding as best they can to the disaster right now.

ROBERTS: Let's go live now to Petionville in Haiti which is just a little bit southeast of the main part of the Port-au-Prince.

Carel Pedre is a radio television host. He joins us by Skype this morning. He was driving in traffic when the earthquake struck.

Carel, thanks for being with us. We know what a terrible time it is there this morning. Take us back to about 5:00 yesterday afternoon. You said you were driving in traffic. What happened? What did you see? What was it like?

CAREL PEDRE, EYEWITNESS TO QUAKE: OK. Hello. I want to say good morning to everybody.

I was driving. I was stuck in the traffic a little bit. I was talking on the phone with some friends. We were doing a radio show. And I felt that my car was shaking. And what I did, I thought that some motor cars hit me. And when I looked in front of me, I saw a lot of people falling down, and I see that the wood was shaking. That's when I realized that was an earthquake.

And after that, what I did, I keep driving, but in front of me there were no major damage. So I thought it was a regular earthquake. So I continued to drive, and like two minutes after, I started seeing a house that collapsed, people bleeding, people crying for help and everything. And that's when I start taking those pictures with my phone.

And after that, I went to the radio station where I'm working and since I didn't have any news, because the communication was off, no cell phones were working. So since I didn't have any news of my one years old daughter, and I parked my car in front of the radio station and I hit the road by feet (ph). And that's when I realized how big the disaster was.

CHETRY: Right.

PEDRE: Because every two steps, I saw like a house collapse. Every two steps I saw people bleeding. Every two steps I saw young children with -- being hit in their head. I saw there was a lot of traffic. Everybody were on the streets, and I see that someplace I used to go collapsed.


PEDRE: So now --

CHETRY: We're seeing some of that video right now as well. We have some pictures that have been sent in to us from iReporters where you can see first hand some of that devastation. Tell us right now what the rescue efforts are like and what type of infrastructure is in place if any at all to try to get to some of these people that we've been hearing are trapped and injured.

PEDRE: That's the thing. We don't have equipment and structure for that, to give a good response about it. Because the thing is, I've got to tell you something really quick, November 2008, one school collapsed. We lost about 150 people because we didn't have the adequate equipment to get them under the -- the school. They died because of the (INAUDIBLE) -- because of the thing, because they were hungry. And now it was one school in 2008.

I have actually four friends, the friends that were on the line with me when I was doing the radio show with them by phone, were still alive under the building that -- that -- where they were located when they were doing the -- the radio show. Now I hope -- I only hope that they can get out safe, but I don't see how.

ROBERTS: So -- so they were in the building when it collapsed?

We should -- we should point out that sunrise is just a little less than 10 minutes away there in -- in Port-au-Prince. What are you, Carel, expecting to see when the sun comes up this morning, based on what you sort of got an idea of last night? I know that the power is out over much of the country.

PEDRE: OK, what -- what I would like to see, I would like to see those people who -- who is strong enough to -- to start giving help to -- to those who need it, those people who -- who're still bleeding, those people who don't have a -- a place to stay, those people who is thirsty or who -- who -- those people who -- who are hungry. Those people still under those buildings that collapsed, who're still alive and we can save their life.

And I think that I want to see in the next 30 minutes those international help, that those -- those American military that hit (ph) the streets with all that they have as equipment to start helping people. Because we can't let ourselves -- we can't let our brothers and sisters die like this, after a -- a natural disaster.

I know that we can't do anything because it's natural. We can't -- we can't avoid it, but I think that we should have the -- the structure, the -- the right equipment to give a quicker response and a good response, faced with this situation.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we want to thank you for joining us. I know it's such a difficult time right now. Hopefully, some help will be on the way. I know that international relief agencies are trying their best to get to Haiti right now.

Carel Pedre, thank you so much for joining us.

ROBERTS: Continuing...

PEDRE: Thank you so much.

ROBERTS: And continuing coverage of the earthquake in Haiti this morning. We'll check on some of the other news of the day, and our Christine Romans is minding our business -- "Minding Your Business" for us this morning.

Stay with us. We'll be back with a whole lot more.

It's 17 and a half minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Well, it is now 20 minutes past the hour.

Our coverage of the earthquake in Haiti will continue in a few minutes, but first we're going to be "Minding Your Business" right now and having a couple of other stories new this morning to tell you about.

The animal rights group, PETA, is pulling an anti-fur ad campaign that featured First Lady Michelle Obama. The organization admits it used the image without Mrs. Obama's permission. Now, PETA is urging the White House to demand that the Ringling Brothers Circus change the name of its newest performing elephant which is called Baby Barack, PETA saying it believes that the circus group abuses animals.

ROBERTS: Google says it and at least 20 other companies were victims of a highly sophisticated and targeted cyber attack originating in China back in mid-December. Google says intellectual property was stolen and the attackers broke into e-mail accounts owned by Chinese human rights activists. The internet giant now says it will stop self-censoring in China and may shut down there and pull out of the country entirely.

CHETRY: Also, Conan O'Brien coming out swinging. He says that if "The Tonight Show" moves to midnight to make room for Jay Leno, is he out as host, also going on to say that he wants a resolution with NBC quickly. He released a statement yesterday that was as powerful it was -- as it was hilarious, saying that he wasn't given the time or the strong lead-ins that other hosts had.

ROBERTS: Well, Christine Romans is with us this morning. There is a big event on Capitol Hill this morning, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission is meeting and pulling together a whole lot of CEOs of financial institutions.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is not your average gathering of the big bankers to face a grilling on Capitol Hill, this is a very important commission. It is modeled after the commission in 1929 that was meant to explore the root causes of the -- of the financial crisis then and to actually recommend how to make sure it didn't happen again.

This is also modeled after the 9/11 Commission. I mean, think of that, these people investigating, getting clear answers, and then laying out a framework for what went wrong and who's at fault.

It's a bipartisan commission, 10 different people on it. Phil Angelides, the former California treasurer, a Democrat, runs the commission, but it is bipartisan.

These are the big bankers facing a grilling today over the crisis, Lloyd Blankfein from Goldman Sachs, Jamie Dimon from JPMorgan Chase, John Mack from Morgan Stanley, and Brian Moynihan who just recently took over the helm of Bank of America. They will be asked about their investment banks' roles in creating risk, and creating -- using high leverage and coupling that with weak oversight from Washington and just what went wrong. So these are the four big bankers that many people say are at the heart of -- of the crisis, of -- of creating this situation, of excessive risk in the system, and -- and what do these people think about what happened.

So this is going to be pretty important, I think, John and Kiran. I think this is going to tell us -- I don't think that you're going to see recommendations about what to do next. We've got a lot of political recommendations out there. This is going to lay out what went wrong, who's at fault, and I think these -- these four gentlemen can face some very, very tough questioning over the next days and months.

CHETRY: It's interesting. It also dovetails into the proposed tax to get some of that money back spent in TARP...


CHETRY: ... so it would be interesting to see how it goes.


CHETRY: Christine Romans "Minding Your Business" this morning for us. Thanks.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back -- you know, information is very hard getting in and out of Haiti right now because of, of course, the devastation there after the earthquake. A lot of the information that was coming from everyday people who are using their cell phones, and we're going to be checking in with our Haiti desk for these iReports.

Twenty-four minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning, coming up on 28 minutes after the hour.

Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince was rocked by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake yesterday. The Red Cross says 3 million people have been affected.

CHETRY: Yes, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pledging that the United States will lend support as quickly as possible. Let's listen.


HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: 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.


CHETRY: And that was our Secretary of State sending out the message that we will help, and the people of Haiti certainly need it. They've been barely hanging on as it is, and clearly they didn't need the challenge of yet another natural disaster.

ROBERTS: The Caribbean nation has seen its share of devastation in the last few years, and when it's not Mother Nature creating chaos, it's often the government. Ralitsa Vassileva now on the upheaval that defines Haiti.


RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Founded by freed slaves in 1804, Haiti is the world's oldest black republic, but it's the poorest country in the western hemisphere, with almost 80 percent of the population of 9 million people living in poverty. More than half get by on less than $1 a day.

The country is still rebuilding from the last series of natural disasters. Four different tropical storms struck the island nation in 2008, leaving the country's fragile infrastructure near total collapse.

Haiti's history is one of political instability and violence. After decades of dictatorship, Jean-Bertrand Aristide became the country's first freely elected leader in 1990, but he was ousted by a military coup in 1991, then reinstated with US support only to be forced out of the country and into exile in 2004. The country returned to constitutional rule in 2006 with the election of president Rene Preval.

A force of some 8,000 UN peace keepers remains in Port-au-Prince, but Haiti has been relatively calm.

Ralitsa Vassileva, CNN, Atlanta.


CHETRY: And, meanwhile, it's half past the hour right now. We're updating you on other breaking news out of Haiti. As we said, sunrise just minutes ago, and it's revealing more devastation. 28 aftershocks so far since the major 7.0 earthquake struck near the capital, Port-Au-Prince. The Red Cross now says 3 million people have been affected by the quake. The city is virtually destroyed and officials say they can't even begin to predict how many have died or are still trapped.

ROBERTS: The headquarters of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti has collapsed. The 9,000-member force includes 500 civilians. And there is no telling how many were hurt, or killed or are trapped right now in the rubble. The United Nations will only say that a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for.

CHETRY: And scientists have sent out the warning for years that Haiti was at risk for a major earthquake at a conference not even two years ago. Five scientists called a fault zone there a major seismic hazard. Haiti's capital sits on a fault line, but it's been 200 years since there is any major seismic activity.

Well, here at CNN, we've got this story covered from all angles. As we've been saying, it's been very hard to get information and video out of Haiti right now due to the devastation, the lack of electricity and infrastructure.

But what we're doing is monitoring the social networks. We're getting messages from witnesses, photos as well. And victims are bringing the latest video as well. And there are many people here in the United States that are waiting desperately for information about family members in Haiti. And most communication, as we said, is down.

Errol Barnett is standing by right now at our special Haiti desk, in our Atlanta headquarters. We talked about this, Errol, how hard it is to get an information. But we have been able to get these amazing and incredible iReports, shedding some light on what's happening in Haiti this morning.

ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Kiran. You know, we've been monitoring this since the story broke throughout the evening. And the only real communication we've been able to get is from people on the ground using the Internet, aid workers have been getting text messages, but that's been very sporadic. It's been crucial, though, for us to understand the depth and magnitude of what took place.

What you're seeing now are some pictures uploaded that first posted on Twitter by Daniel Morrell. There you see a building just completely flattened. And this will give you a sense of why it's going to be so challenging in the next few weeks to get around the city. Many of these roads are just impassable. You cannot get through. People covered in dust. We are hearing of a few miracles, people being found alive amid all of that rubble.

But these pictures were first posted on Twitter. We were able to get access to them, confirm them, and then bring them to you as well. We also have some video. I want to warn you, some of what you'll see, you may find disturbing. It was sent to us by an iReporter who's mother-in-law is in Port-Au-Prince. She's a missionary doing aid work, and there you see a missionary trying to help out with someone's wounds, trying to pick up any medicines they have left, aid that's still available. That wall gives you a sense of the construction in the city.

It's just these concrete blocks with mortar. Not much of it re- enforced. Apparently some homes did survive. And, Kiran, what's been interesting throughout the evening as I've been communicating with our CNN viewers around the world is many people on the continent of Africa were connected to Haiti.

We've been talking with them on social networks. They found me under ErrolCNN, one word, on Twitter and Facebook. And I've seen message of support from Tanzania, from South Africa, from Kenya, all saying that they stand with the Haitian people. And we should remember that Haiti was the first nation founded by former African slaves, so their roots are really felt deeply back to the continent. And now we're seeing this story play out through social media.

So as we go through from this, the assessment of damage phase, we still don't have any estimates of the numbers of injured or killed. We move into more of a recovery phase. Aid agencies and people with family in Haiti will still want to get communication, get confirmation and find out exactly what has taken place. Because at this hour, as the sun rises on Haiti, there's a lot of -- unsure exactly of how people there are doing on the ground. But it is a catastrophic situation. Some people, though, still able to use social media to communicate with us. And we'll keep an eye on that as the day moves forward.

CHETRY: Yes. And we've been talking about that as well, where you can go for information, where you can go to -- actually, I mean, in this day and age, use your cell phone to text donations via the Red Cross, as well as others.

This is interesting, Errol. One of the aid groups there sent an e-mail to her colleagues. You had showed some video of some of the missionaries trying to give services as best they can to the injured. And this person wrote, "Port-Au-Prince, devastated, S.O.S., S.O.S. Temporary field hospital by us needs supplies, pain meds, bandages, please help us." And they really are putting out that call, you know, that global call for help because right now Haiti is not in the position to be able to help itself. And it really is devastating to see what's been happening.

BARNETT: That's right, Kiran. And we're seeing that story multiplied dozens of times. And it's probably happening to thousands of people there on the ground. Not just the aid agencies who want to help those who have been affected, but those average Haitians who are there with nothing, really.

This was a country, keep in mind, that had a hard time feeding half of its population on a good day. So after last year's multiple tropical storms, this year's massive earthquake, this is a crippled country. And it will really rely on international aid, assistance and awareness for the people to be able to be brought back to some sense of normalcy.

CHETRY: All right. Well, they're hoping that that will happen today, at least the beginnings of the aid trickling in as best it can, given the trouble with the infrastructure as well. But thank you for monitoring all of that.

We're going to be checking in with you throughout the morning. Errol Barnett, and as you said, ErrolCNN, on Twitter or Facebook if people want to either add information and pictures to show, or to lend their support. Thanks so much.

BARNETT: Thanks.


ROBERTS: Let's go to the magic wall this morning, and give you a better idea of where all of this is taking place. A bit of the lay of the land, if you will.

So here's Miami over here, at the Island of Hispaniola which combines the Dominican Republic on the east and Haiti on the west. We'll zoom in just a little bit here, and tell you a little bit about Haiti. 47 percent of the 9.7 million people who live in Haiti live in cities or towns. Many of them, almost 4 million live in Port-Au- Prince. So you can expect that the amount of devastation there, the number of people there is going to really increase the hardship.

Only 53 percent literacy rate in Haiti. Education, a real problem there. Here's the epicenter here on the western peninsula of Haiti. This is Port-Au-Prince right in here. This is Petionville, which is where we talked to Carol Padre not too long ago. This is the epicenter. Carrefour is a little town right here.

Now we should point out that there's a fault, you know, the major fault that Rob was talking about earlier runs north, that's the sub- duction area, runs north of Hispaniola. But right here all the way through to Tiburon, on the western tip of that peninsula, there is a large fault line. And that's the one that let go. As we zoom in just a little bit more here, a little more about the economics of Haiti. We'll bring some statistics up for you. It's the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. 80 percent of people live below the poverty line. Per capita income anywhere between $400 and $1300 a year. It's a place that has been beset with a lot of problems. It's just smaller than Maryland, very mountainous, particularly heading back toward the Dominican Republic. Earthquake and hurricane hazard.

Just how much of an earthquake and hurricane hazard is it, let's take a look. Four tropical storms back in 2008. And, of course, plagued for years with civil and political unrest. You might remember that back in 1994 when General Raoul Cedras refuse to leave, and let Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was the duly-elected president take power, the United States came in here. Its ships were just off of the coast of Port-Au-Prince, about to launch an invasion, and then Jimmy Carter brokered a deal in which Raoul Cedras agreed to step down. So that was just one of the many, many, many political problems that Haiti has had.

This is the airport right here, an American Airlines flight took off from here yesterday. The runway said to be as far as we know in fairly good condition. And I remember being in Haiti in 1994, and there were just loads and loads of American cargo planes, C-141 Star Lifters lined up on that runway. And you can probably expect over the next 24 to 48 hours, you're going to see a very similar scene as massive amounts of aid from the United States and other countries begin to flow into that airport, flow into Haiti. And here's the reason why there's so many problems there.

This is the -- this is the bowl, if you will, that is Port-Au- Prince. The hills of Petionville up in this area, all down in here you can see just how densely-populated that whole area is. Literally, there are no building standards in Haiti. So you get a big quake that comes in, and shakes like this, if you will, a lot of those buildings, a lot of those structures are going to come down. And as the sun comes up there, we expect that we're going to start to see to a greater extent just how much devastation there is there.


CHETRY: John, yes, you're absolutely right. And we'll continue to follow the story. Hey, a little bit of information just coming in from our White House reporter Suzanne Malveaux saying that President Obama will address the nation regarding Haiti and U.S. efforts to offer assistance. So we will be hearing from President Obama on this, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Suzanne Malveaux just reporting that information right now. So we'll have the latest on that.

Also, switching gears a bit. You may remember the uproar back in November when that federal advisory panel recommended that most women, they didn't have a family history, wait until 50 years of age for their first routine mammogram. Well, it caused a huge controversy. Now it looks like a reversal is in the works. We're going to be joined by one of the leading breast surgeons in just a moment with more on how it could affect millions of women.

It's 40 minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Images and information continue to come in from Haiti. A massive earthquake causing widespread damage there. We're staying on top of this developing story. We'll bring you new details as they come in.


CHETRY: John, thanks.

Well, it's 43 minutes after the hour. Time for your "A.M. House Call." Many doctors and patient groups have long supported early, frequent screening for breast cancer. And the Senate, in fact, just approved an amendment to its health care legislation that would require insurance companies to offer free mammograms and other preventative services to women, despite a federal panel's recommendation, you may remember, back in November that most women in their 40s no longer need yearly screening, that that can wait until 50.

Joining us now Dr. Freya Schnabel. She's the director of breast surgery at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

Great to see you this morning, Dr. Schnabel.


CHETRY: We had you on in November when this independent panel made those recommendations. It caused quite an uproar, and also left a lot of women confused about what they should do when it comes to mammograms and preventative health.

What do you think now that it looks like a reversal is in the works because of this Senate bill?

SCHNABEL: I think that like all other good recommendations, any panel's decisions need to be scrutinized and thought about and put into the proper context. We know that in America the mortality from breast cancer has dramatically been decreased since 1990. And we certainly don't want to do anything that would compromise American women's access to early detection methods.

So I think that the recognition that in order to maximize early detection, we should still really encourage women to be screened is coming back into the forefront here.

CHETRY: I mean, a lot of people were shocked by those recommendations, saying just point to the numbers and see how many people had their breast cancer caught early because they did get a routine mammogram, no family history, even for many women in their 30s. And so now what's the best advice for women as we realize perhaps these waiting until 50 is not the best thing, 40. What should you talk about with your doctor?

SCHNABEL: I think there are two real pieces of advice to give to American women. First of all, some understanding of an individual woman's risk for breast cancer is critical, because certainly women who are at increased risk for the disease should be screened in a manner that is different from women who are not at increased risk, so that's one thing woman should discuss with their physicians, but in addition, women who are really motivated to maximize and optimize their opportunity to have breast cancer detected early should certainly seek out that yearly screening mammography after the age of 40.

CHETRY: Another question is the task force pointed to was one of the reasons that they made the recommendations, a lot of false positives that perhaps lead to biopsies, perhaps unnecessary procedures and unnecessary stress. Is that being properly addressed?

SCHNABEL: I think that certainly unnecessary or negative biopsies cause a lot of distress to the people who are involved and certainly they cost a lot of money. On the other hand, we also recognize that whenever we do screening for any disease, whether it's something as simple as taking a blood pressure or measuring cholesterol in the blood, occasionally people will have false positives, and ordinarily, if we can find ways to deal with that in a simple manner that can rule out the true positives as easily as possible for patients, it minimizes the distress and the cost all around.

CHETRY: One of the things that you mentioned and other people are talking about is whenever an issue like this comes to the forefront; there's controversy. There's finger pointing on all sides. Some advocacy groups have said that basically that there's -- the business of breast cancer in fact, one professor at Georgetown University Medical School says that there's evidence that does support less frequent mammograms and says you have to ask if there's a conflict of interest because breast cancer advocacy has become a big business. Are there forces at work besides the ultimate health of women that drive this debate?

SCHNABEL: I think that incentives are always mixed, and there is certainly health care reform, I think, is all about trying to sort out incentives and make sure that everyone who's involved in this incentivized in the right direction. On the other hand, groups like the American Cancer Society that are broad based and deal with many, many diseases seem to have very little to do with industry, with imaging companies, and so on, and I think that their recommendations are solid and made not only based on good science, but also in the best interest of the American people.

CHETRY: The bottom line, though, is talk to your doctor, have that conversation.

SCHNABEL: Absolutely. CHETRY: It was great having you with us this morning. Dr. Freya Schnabel with the Langone Medical Center at NYU. Thanks a lot.

SCHNABEL: Thank you.


ROBERTS: Forty-seven and a half minutes after the hour. Our Rob Marciano will be along in just a couple of minutes with your weather, and we're also going to talk with the new administrator of U.S. Aid, Dr. Rajiv Shah, about relief efforts in Haiti. Stay with us.


CHETRY: Welcome back. It's 50 minutes past the hour. We'll get a check of our headlines this morning including our weather headlines. Rob Marciano following extreme weather for us this morning. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. A bit of a shift in the pattern that's good news, and we'll start to get rid of the cold air that's been embedded in the Eastern two-thirds of the country. Warm air starting to make its way into the central part of the country, not so much the East Coast just yet but just be patience. Still temperatures below freezing in parts of the southeast, 16 right now in Nashville, 24 degrees in Memphis, 27 degrees in Jacksonville, and almost freezing again in Orlando and Tampa, but I think you're going to get closer to 70 as we go through today.

Not a lot of precip down across parts of the East Coast, just a few lake effect snow showers. Watch this area. This is going to spell trouble. Southern Texas rain getting itself together. This is going to be slowly marching toward the east into the central Gulf of Mexico, and this is going to spell rain, some of it could be flooding as we head toward the weekend, very El Nino type of pattern. Also, very El Nino is this now, starting to get active across California, one of several storms to make its way into the west coast.

The strongest one will come this weekend, and that is going to spell potentially some flooding rain across parts of the West Coast, and certainly a whole lot of mountain snow. Forty-five in Kansas City today, and 32, celebrate touching the freezing mark there in Chicago, but 60 in Dallas. Just some signs of warmer things to come, but not all of it great news, and of course, we're keeping an eye on what's going on down there in Haiti. At last check, over 30 aftershocks now. John and Kiran, we'll have more on that and some perspective in the next hour. Back to you.

CHETRY: Rob, thanks. Right, as the sun comes up, we're going to be finding more about just how bad the devastation is.

ROBERTS: Yes. Sun came up probably just about a half an hour ago. President Obama is expected to make a statement at the White House. We're not sure exactly what the timing of that is going to be, but the President will be committing the full force of the United States to try to get in there and figure out what's going on in Haiti and whatever recovery efforts that can possibly be manifest.

Dr. Rajiv Shah, the administrator of U.S. Aid, it's going to be one of the lead agencies in terms of getting in there to find out what's going on, search and rescue teams, et cetera, will be sent in. He joins us now from the White House.

Dr. Shah, thanks very much for being with us. The President has said that he expects an aggressive, coordinated effort by the U.S. government. What does U.S. Aid have ready to go?

DR. RAJIV SHAH, USAID ADMINISTRATOR: Thank you for having me. First, I'd like to note that today our thoughts and our prayers go out to the people of Haiti and to the U.S. citizens and U.S. personnel in Haiti. This is obviously a tremendous tragedy that happened just before sundown last night, and our teams have been working in a coordinated and aggressive way, as you point out, all night to make sure that the U.S. mounts an effective response in supporting saving lives, which is the President's absolute top priority for this first period of 72 hours when we all try to search and save as many lives as we can.

ROBERTS: All right, so get us down to the nuts and bolts if you could Dr. Shah. What is U.S. Aid going to send in?

SHAH: Our effort is a whole of government effort, so the U.S. Aid is working with the Department of Defense, the Department of State and a number of other agencies. We've stood up one disaster assistance response team that is ready to go, and we have two significant search and rescue teams, each of 72 people with a range of technical capacities, and equipment that will be able to go in today and to begin an aggressive search and rescue operation.

We've spoken with the ambassador in Haiti who has spoken with the President and with senior members of the cabinet. The Haitian government is suggesting their top priority, as is ours, is saving lives through a search and rescue operation, and so we intend to stand that up as quickly as possible.

ROBERTS: You know, as first light begins to creep over Haiti, we're expecting in the next few hours to get a better idea of the extent of the devastation there, and from some initial reports we're hearing that much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince may be destroyed. Where do you even begin?

SHAH: That's exactly right. We begin by getting our teams on the ground with the effective logistics and support to begin a search and rescue operation. On the ground, the embassy team and the U.S. Aid mission that's already there, and President has been working through this will be working effectively and aggressively to identify which sites and which buildings the teams start with, and once they go into buildings, they'll do their best to save as many lives as they can and to rescue anyone in that particular building.

So, they'll be going throughout priority parts of Port-au-Prince, and as soon as we get our teams on the ground, and as you point out, as soon as we get more information as the sun comes up, we'll be able to develop that specific plan.

ROBERTS: I don't know if you saw it, but about 40 minutes ago, we spoke with Carlo Pedro (ph), who is a radio host there in Port-au- Prince, and he was saying that the one thing that Haiti lacks is the heavy equipment to be able -- that it needs to be able to move some of this rubble and save some people who might be trapped in buildings. Is there anything the United States can do to get some of that heavy equipment on the ground there quickly?

SHAH: Yes. We're looking at using military assets, including air transport. We have coast guard transport and other capacities that we'll put in place to try and get appropriate equipment there. We also believe there is some heavy equipment in and around Port-au- Prince that has been part of construction sites and construction projects, and so we have a special effort to try and identify and bring those assets into play as well.

You're absolutely right that that will be a big challenge. That's why it's important that the teams we send in are trained and have the capacities to do this kind of work in an urban environment. Both of the teams we've stood up are technical urban search and rescue teams with that background and capability.

ROBERTS: Will you be going down there yourself to personally oversee this or will you be staying there at the White House?

SHAH: You know, we have a large team. We're going to identify who should be down there and in what time frame. Right now, our first goal is to support the folks on the ground that are trying to stand up the logistics and the search and rescue operation, and I will go wherever I need to go to be most helpful to do that. Often in the early period, it's best to let those teams get set up and operate as opposed to sending a lot of visitors, but we will be looking at a lot of different options.

I also wanted to mention that our state department has set up an important hotline for people that want to inquire about the safety and security of U.S. citizens on the ground in Haiti. That number is 1- 888-407-4747, and we are eager to have people call in to that hotline. Of course, the call volume we expect will be very large, so we'll ask for patience, but we want to make sure that people have access to information about their loved ones and their friends.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll let you get back to work. Dr. Rajiv Shah, the new administrator of U.S. Aid. Thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate you taking the time.

SHAH: Thank you.

CHETRY: And we're just getting in some reaction a couple of moments ago from the Vatican this morning. Pope Benedict appealing this morning for generous international aid for the victims of Haiti's earthquake and the Pope also pledging some help coming from the Catholic Church. Haiti's population largely catholic, I believe, 80 percent. Pope Benedict also urging prayers for the victims, and again, we will get the latest from Haiti as well as the rest of today's top stories coming your way in just two minutes.