Monday 16 July 2018

Haiti earthquake: witnesses describe scenes of devastation

A Haitian woman is helped after being trapped in rubble in Port-au-Prince. Photo: Getty Images
A Haitian woman is helped after being trapped in rubble in Port-au-Prince. Photo: Getty Images
Large cracks have appeared in many of the buildings that are still standing in Port-au-Prince as a result of the earthquake. Photo: Getty Images

Ben Leach

Eyewitnesses have described the scenes of devastation after a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean nation of Haiti.

The tremor sparked widespread panic as it brought down buildings including the presidential palace, hotels, a hospital and the UN headquarters in the capital Port-au-Prince, leaving hundreds of people feared dead.

Joel Trimble, a missionary in Haiti, said: "It felt like a train was coming down the road. It (the house) wasn't shaking, it was rocking. I went outside and the vehicle in the driveway was rocking, glass breaking all around the house.

"I felt the rumbling of the ground underneath us. I saw a 400sq m house which had collapsed on the ground – they were pulling an elderly woman out of the rubble. Down in the city, many, many, many buildings had collapsed. There's a cloud of dust over Port-au-Prince right now."

Rachmani Domersant, an operations manager with the Food for the Poor charity told Reuters: "There are people running, crying, screaming."

"People are trying to dig victims out with flashlights," he said. "I think hundreds of casualties would be a serious understatement."

Joseph Guyler Delva, a reporter for Reuters, added "everything started shaking, people were screaming, houses started collapsing".

He added. "I saw people under the rubble, and people killed. People were screaming 'Jesus, Jesus' and running in all directions." Henry Bahn, an official for the US Agriculture Department visiting Haiti, said everybody there was "just totally freaked out and shaken".

"I could hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance. It's just full of collapsed walls and rubble and barbed wire."

Fifteen-year-old Valerie Moliere had to be helped out of her family's home by her father. "It was very, very bad. I couldn't even stand up. I was on the floor, my Dad had to take me and get me out of the house, that's how bad it was”.

"Right now, all I see is people running. They're still running and screaming. All I see is people everywhere hugging and crying. I see broken houses and many people are walking in front of me and they have blood all over them," she told US television network ABC.

Within minutes of the quake, a huge plume of dust and smoke was seen rising from the capital.

Mike Godfrey, a contractor for the US Agency for International Development, told CNN it looked like "a blanket that completely covered the city and obscured it for about 20 minutes".

Carel Pedre, a TV and radio presenter in Port-au-Prince, told the BBC he had witnessed extensive damage on his five-mile walk through the city to reach his daughter.

"I saw a lot of people crying for help, a lot of buildings collapsed, a lot of car damage, a lot of people without help, people bleeding."

Mr Pedre said he could feel aftershocks every 15 to 20 minutes, lasting from three to five seconds each. "There is no electricity, all the phone networks are down, so there's no way that people can get in touch with their family and friends," he said.

He said he had not seen any emergency services, and that while people in the neighbourhood were trying to help each other, they did not know "where to go or where to start".

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