Following a major earthquake in Haiti on Tuesday, Raymond Alcide Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the United States, said it was a miracle that he was able to reach the secretary general of the presidency on his cell phone.
"All communication is down," Joseph told Robert Siegel from the embassy in Washington. "He told me that he was not able to reach the palace himself."
Joseph said the minister, Fritz Lonchamps, told him that buildings had collapsed on both sides of the street as he was driving home to Petionville from the capital, Port-au-Prince.
"His phrase was, 'This is a catastrophe of major proportions.' "
Joseph said Haiti's consul general in Miami, Ralph Latortue, was told parts of the presidential palace, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Finance had been destroyed.
The number of casualties was unknown, but Joseph told Siegel there were a lot of flimsy houses on the hillsides around Port-au-Prince.
"I'm told that some of them collapsed like cardboard," he said.
The earthquake struck during rush hour, so many cars were on the road. Joseph said some of the hills collapsed on the cars.
He called on the international community to come to Haiti's aid as it did in 2008 when four hurricanes hit the island in a matter of weeks. "Haiti [is] facing a dire situation."