Latin America

Quake Devastates Haitian Capital

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Port-au-Prince is in ruins after Tuesday's major earthquake. It's unclear how many people are dead, injured or trapped inside tons of rubble. It was the strongest earthquake in the poor Caribbean nation in more than 200 years. A witness with Doctors Without Borders describes the scene.


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Deborah Amos, in for Renee Montagne.

In the next few minutes, we're going to hear voices from a disaster zone. It's the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, where an earthquake struck yesterday. We reached Maggie Boyer there. She's with the humanitarian group World Vision.

AMOS: The earthquake, as you know, happened last night, yesterday evening, around 5 p.m. local time. It was at the end of the workday, and I was at my desk at World Vision. And there was a noise, actually, and then the building and the desk started shaking. And I had thought that maybe a large truck had hit a wall close to me. But within seconds, of course, it became quite obvious that that was not at all the case, and that it was something else. Within a couple of minutes, those of us who were still at work were in the courtyard and trying to get a hold of family members, trying to place calls, trying to get a hold of our staff. And as I walked around the World Vision building in Haiti, it became obvious just how much damage the city had suffered, if where we were was any indication at all. We were walking...

AMOS: Maggie, did you have to spend the night last night in the World Vision office? Did you just stay where you were?

AMOS: No, no, no. We - night fell, and people were able to make their way home. That - the traffic was reduced a great deal, and we were able to get home. But again, I think what helps is that in the higher elevations, things are OK. But as you get lower and lower, things are not. So around the midtown - the area I'm calling the midtown, I would say - it was already obvious that something had gone terribly awry. Tree limbs were blocking traffic and walls had crumbled, and a roof had collapsed. And as we left that area to go down a little bit more in the area called Delmas, there were quite a few people outside. People were not - were choosing not to stay within their homes because it's not still confident that there would not be more aftershocks. So they were in the streets with their blankets and getting ready for the night.

AMOS: And Maggie, are you able to get out of the car and walk around? Are you able to drive close to where the - most of the damage is?

AMOS: We are able to drive in parts of the city. As you imagine, traffic was very, very, very heavy right after it happened, with people just desperately trying to get to their kids and trying to pick up their kids from school, and trying to get home to assess damages. This was around 5, 5:30, 6. Traffic was extremely heavy and really did not allow any movement in the city. But by 9, 9:30 last night, traffic was moving. There was - there were more possibilities to get in as - and by that time, the only - the obstacles that were keeping traffic - that were making traffic difficult were the broken lanes and walls and just rocks, and piles of rocks and rubble and dirt. Certainly, the back roads of the city, there was a bit of that. I was...

AMOS: Maggie we had heard reports or read reports here...

AMOS: ...walking through...

AMOS: We had read reports here that in some cases, the dead were still in the street, either buried in the rubble or where they fell, because it's been so difficult to get aid in. And people are still working through those piles of rubble with their hands.

AMOS: That is correct. We did see some persons in a couple of neighborhoods where maybe they had been just earlier with friends or classmates. There were trying to dig out from under, trying to see - there were people with flashlights calling peoples' names, trying to see if they were still in the buildings.

AMOS: 30, it was pretty dark, and as you can imagine, electricity was not readily available. So I think that (unintelligible) is being re-launched this morning for (unintelligible), and people are out and about, trying to do that.

AMOS: Thank you very much.

AMOS: Thank you.

AMOS: That's Maggie Boyer. She works for World Vision. She is one of the survivors of an earthquake that struck Haiti yesterday.

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