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Tuesday, January 12

Haiti earthquake (UPDATED 23 X as of 4:10 PM ET)

(All times in these notes are Eastern Standard)

See my 2:20 PM update about some aid agencies being evacuated.

UPDATE 1/14 5:20 PM

Reuters: U.S. military mobilizes thousands for Haiti relief: "The U.S. military is mobilizing thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines for relief efforts in Haiti."

*********************UPDATE 4:10 PM
From RBO: 3:34 PM 1/14:
It needs to be said. This situation has moved from earthquake status to aftershock to bringing in supplies and helpers but all too late. No way to move debris to find bodies dead or alive. This is when all the horror stories start and the occasional miracle happens. Heat, filth, rubble, hopelessness. All the $100 million contributions cannot change this picture.
From my emails to correspondents over the past hour:

Oh, man
Shep Smith (Fox) just asked reporter on the ground whether that was a body or live being bulldozed in the rubble behind him. Reporter has evidentially gotten used to seeing his. He said there's no more living in that rubble. he said this is one of the stinkiest areas of city. So this means we can forget trying to get anywhere near an accurate death toll.

Looters now following in the wake
Reporter he was just speaking with said they better get security in there fast
Aftershocks are continuing. You're right. They need to abandon the city. Weather report just now: hot and humid. Well, at there's no rain to contribute to mudslides. Also, a major tourist town was devastated. I have lost the name of the town in the shuffle of reports.

No evidence of organized relief operation
Fox reporter just said that when he arrived at airport about 9 hrs ago he expected to see pallets of water and food piled up. Nothing.

From Fox: Haitians descending on airport trying to get out
Very dangerous situation building up. All Haitians fearing riots will break out. Of course airport is reserved for just a few people getting out and aid flights coming in. "Haitians realize it's now every man, woman, child for himself." Temperature 90 degrees; smell of rotting corpses overwhelming. No signs left of organized attempt to dig out survivors from "acres and acres" of rubble. (French sending in about 70 rubble clearing experts.) Now all efforts on getting aid to those still alive.
quake.
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UPDATE 1/14 2:50 PM

(See 2:20 update about some aid agencies being evacuated.)

Fox: US military has established FOB at Haiti airport. They will coordinate all flights into and from the airport and they're going to oversee offloading of all the supplies. They're bringing in forklifts so that will halt the gridlock (see last update), although it could take several hours.

> WSJ reports:


*************************Crisis on top of crisis

UPDATE 1/14 2:30 PM
> Fox reported that some aid agencies (didn't say how many or which ones) are now evacuating their people from Port au Prince to protect them because of the worsening security situation there and difficulty getting enough food/water to their own people.

> Fox reports traffic jam: The international airport in Haiti was just reopened for 24 service a few hours ago but now the FAA is limiting and/or suspending flights into the airport because there's no room on the tarmac for all the supplies being off-loaded. There's only one landing strip and not enough equipment for offloading the huge pallets of supplies.

Also, there's a gasoline shortage so pilots are being warned that depending on where they're coming in from, they might not have enough fuel for return trip.

> Fox reporter in Puerto Rico says that because of the airport problem in Haiti many of the large transport planes are landing at the international airport in that country, which is only two hours from Haiti. Then they wait for clearance to take off for Haiti.

> Fox reports that the port is still not open.

> From a CNN TV report this morning, evidentially there is potable water in some parts and/or buildings in Port au Prince; earlier today a reporter at a hotel there showed that hotel staff had turned on the water, run a large garden hose from a sink, and slung it over the balcony to people on the street. People were going there with any kind of container they could find to fill up.

How did the hotel manage to keep safe water? Unknown, but if it's just that they have an enough gasoline stockpiled to keep emergency generator running to pump the water, well, that would be one explanation. I think I know which hotel this is -- probably the same one that's opened its doors to foreign journalists, aid officials and not charging them anything.
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1:20 PM - Notes

After I posted the 6:45 AM update for 1/14 I crashed for a few hours, during which Brenda at RBO continued adding updates at her blog, which I'm now posting below. So we're up to 17 updates, I think, or at least according to Brenda. She also added four U.S. Navy videos to the 6:45 update (See her blog.)

The big news of the morning is that U.S. Special Operations got the Haiti airport functional enough that it's now reopened for 24-hour operations. That is huge; now critical supplies can start flooding in. (See 9:45 AM update below for more info).

Brenda also sent me this: New: Tweet @southcomwatch or go to SOUTHCOM.mil -- US Southern Command -- for Haiti updates.
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UPDATE 1/14 12:10 PM

Charles Forelle and Pooja Bhatia report for the WSJ Haiti Despairs as Quake Deaths Mount:

youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nvzu3sTjels]
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UPDATE 1/14 9:45 AM

White House: U.S. Special Operations Reopens Haitian Airport

Elizabeth Williamson, WSJ, reported 9:41 AM:

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UPDATE 6:45 AM Thursday, January 14

Who's in Charge?

Dazed Blue Helmets

Veteran Reuters reporter, Briton Andrew Cawthorne's haunting, evocative journal entries as he sorts through his impressions since arriving in Haiti.
[...] U.N. peacekeepers -- 9,000 are stationed in Haiti -- dot the streets but look bemused, overwhelmed and worried about their own circumstances.

"I have not even been able to call my wife yet. She may think I'm dead," said one Chilean peacekeeper, who asked not to be named.

He and some blue-helmet colleagues from other Latin American nations sat on a line of vehicles -- including a tractor, earth-mover, and two cranes -- facing a road covered in rubble that they had been tasked with clearing.

"Where do we start? Just look at this," the soldier said. "And imagine what it's like in the areas we can't get to." [...]
Road clearing? The heavy machinery is needed now for rescuing people buried under rubble. Who's in charge? Chaos. Despair.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told French media his country's ambassador reported that everyone in the U.N. building, including mission chief Hedi Annabi, appeared to be dead. U.N. officials would say only that Annabi is unaccounted for." (AP/Fox - January 13)
Washington Post January 14:
150 U.N. staff members remain trapped under rubble in Haiti

As rescue crews dug through the wreckage of the Christopher Hotel, which houses the mission's headquarters in Port-au-Prince, the world body confirmed the deaths of 16 officials, including 13 Brazilian and Jordanian peacekeepers. However, it said it expected that most of those still missing would not survive.

"It's clear a high number of them might be dead," said Alain Le Roy, the top U.N. peacekeeping official.
Fog of War

Yesterday Fox announced that all 172 U.S. embassy staff were accounted for. Today's Washington Post reports:
U.S. officials expressed particular concern about the 172 Americans posted at the embassy, and about the roughly 45,000 Americans who live in Haiti, few of whom had been in contact with officials by midday [Wednesday]. The embassy building is one of a handful that were relatively unscathed, officials said, and is serving as the center of the U.S. relief effort.
For now I'm going to assume that the staff are okay. I'll check again later today.

Gunshots

Yesterday evening a CNN anchor mentioned that Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who'd arrived earlier in the day in Port au Prince, had reported that he'd heard gunshots. The anchor didn't say where Gupta was when he heard the shots. Ever since the quake has struck there has been cooperation in the rescue efforts and no reports of major looting or serious crime. But that could change quickly.

Also yesterday the head of the country's national police set some confusion to rest; he explained that the authorities had released all the prisoners in the main prison because the roof was starting to collapse. That moots yesterday's hot question of whether the U.S. and Haiti's government should consider sending the prisoners to Gitmo. First the released prisoners would have go be found and quite understandably they've made themselves scarce. The police chief is asking police forces around the world to send officers to Haiti and pitch in with law enforcement.

Relief Effort from Stateside: a colossus girds for battle against disaster

Larry Johnson (who had worked for the U.S. Dept. of State for years) reporting on John Batchelor's radio show last night. From my notes on his discussion:

-- For a humanitarian effort, all U.S. military in Haiti would report to the U.S. Ambassador, not the U.S. military command.

-- USAID (under the U.S. Department of State's authority) has activated the OFDA disaster response plan, headed up by Rajiv Shah. That's what President Obama and his cabinet were working on yesterday and helping to coordinate the plan with myriad agencies.

-- The plan is textbook and well-rehearsed, so all that the Obama team had to do was follow instructions. Larry (who is no friend of the Obama Administration) has given Obama good marks for his efforts.

So far everything is proceeding like clockwork -- except, I note, the web page for OFDA, which as of 2:00 AM had not been updated with information about the response to Haiti. However, the site has plenty of information so you can get an idea of what they're doing.

State's DipNote blog is providing information on that agency's efforts and provides information sources; they've also set up links for texting donations to relief agencies.

-- Larry: OFDA activated search-and-rescue teams in Los Angeles, Fairfax (Virgina) and Miami-Dade County. These are three of the best trained teams in the United States. They got the plane packed and were off to Haiti within 24 hours --- half the usual time. They take their own supplies; they understand there won't be any supplies in Haiti.

-- Larry, in answer to John's question about how people in Haiti are functioning without food and potable water: "The adrenaline rush has kept people going; it's like that during the first two days. On the third and fourth days people start to crash."

Today's Washington Post:
[...] Naval ships steamed south and flights began shuttling search-and-rescue teams to dig through rubble in Port-au-Prince. Military aircraft flew over the island, mapping the destruction, while U.S. officials coordinated the efforts of nongovernmental aid agencies. Coast Guard helicopters began flying seriously wounded Americans from the U.S. Embassy on the island nation to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, about 200 miles away.

[...]

But even as U.S. agencies lined up to help, officials sounded a note of concern, saying they are deeply worried about whether Haiti's infrastructure can handle the influx of help. The island's airport and seaport sustained substantial damage in the temblor.

"If the port is severely damaged, that makes it very, very difficult" to deliver relief supplies, said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. James A. "Jim" Watson IV, director of Atlantic area operations.[...]
Last night Fox reported that the port is "unusable." From what John Batchelor reported last night I think it's more accurate to say that the port is closed for U.S. inspection; it has to be certified safe for offloading all the heavy equipment. The extent of the damage to the port is unknown at this point -- at least, as of early this morning. The U.S. is deploying a veritable armada, including a floating hospital. See Wikipedia for the list.

Haiti's Neighbor

The Dominican Republic has not had terribly friendly relations with Haiti, their only neighbor on the island of Hispaniola. However, DR's president and the citizens of that country have thrown themselves into doing whatever they can to help the Haitians in their darkest hour. According to Wikipedia's section on international assistance at their 2010 Haiti Earthquake page:
President Leonel Fernández rallied the international community to help its neighbor to overcome a "real tragedy." Its air force is currently picking up survivors for aid and is transporting trained dogs to sniff for victims under rubble.

The Dominican government has sent eight mobile medical units along with 36 doctors including orthopedics, traumatologists, anesthesiologists, and surgeons. As well, 39 trucks with canned food have been dispatched, along with 10 mobile kitchens and 110 cooks who can prepare 100,000 meals per day.

The Dominican Airport at El Higuero (5 miles North of Santo Domingo) is working as a hub to carry help local and international resources. According to sources, 19 private planes and 14 military helicopters are being used to carry help to Haiti.

An air bridge is working between Port-au-Prince and Santiago where people are being attended at the Hospital Metropolitano de Santiago (HOMS), a private hospital in Santiago city.[...]
Andrew Cawthorne was not impressed. From his 12:38 AM ET entry today:
[...] There appears to be little major relief work under way yet.

Neighboring Dominican Republic has sent in some truckloads of aid and a few ambulances, which came screaming back out of Haiti with some injured people before night fell on Wednesday
He hasn't seen the air bridge. I don't think he got much sleep:
In the frightening pitch black of quake-stricken Haiti's night, religious songs rise from groups of people huddled in open spaces for safety and solidarity.

The chanting and clapping, mainly by women, echo from hill to hill, street to street, as Haitians pray for their dead and ask God to spare them more suffering after an earthquake that has killed thousands and flattened much of the capital.

While the widespread singing provides comfort, the jarring shrieks and sobs of injured children -- some lying in the street clutching bloody gashes -- are a haunting reminder of the untended suffering in Haiti.
The dawn has arrived in Haiti. I haven't looked at television yet to see what the new day brings. I myself stayed awake through the night. I'll sleep now, for a few hours, then turn on the TV.
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UPDATE 6:30 PM
> Fox report at 6:00 PM:

"US has accounted for all 172 embassy employees in Haiti"
"Giant C-4 aid delivery planes arriving at airport- pilots flying in by sight"

> Interesting Tom Foreman discussion at CNN around 5:00 PM about the physics of the quake -- quoting scientists who're trying to estimate the number of dead. He showed that the quake 'run' was actually away from the most heavily populated area (shanty towns on hillsides) toward the least populated. He also noted that the shanty town houses tended to have lighter roofs -- e.g., tin. This might mean fewer deaths than in better off areas using concrete.

UPDATE 4:30 PM

(Fox reported at 4:45 that State Dept. was giving a briefing on the situation in Haiti. It's being televised on CSPAN2.)

> 4:00 PM summary from Fox News Cable:

The port at the moment "not usable."

Sewer service and potable water not available

Most of 45,000 Americans in Haiti still unaccounted for.

Citigroup reports that their office in Port au Prince (or suburb; they didn't specify) was destroyed. "The fate of the 40 Citi employees in the building is unknown."

> The news about the port is very disturbing because it's confirmed that only one runway at the international airport is working and tower communications are still out. So the first thing they have to do, before U.S. relief ships can dock, is repair the port.

> "A Coast Guard helicopter evacuated four critically injured U.S. Embassy staff to the naval station in Guantanamo for treatment, a statement from the U.S. Southern Command said." -- See report below for link.

> Around 3:30 PM Fox interviewed some sort of official (sorry; it's been a hectic day) who said the Pentagon doesn't want to discuss the possibility, at this point ,of transferring Haitian refugees or prisoners from the damaged or destroyed main Haiti prison to Guantanamo. Official said that military is saying that this is an issue for another day. That comports with what SOCOM Gen. Foley said during the briefing this morning.

> Despite the alleged port disrepair, and while several countries are sending all kinds of aid (e.g., Italy sending a mobile hospital), this is fast shaping up to be a U.S. military story, as it was during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. U.S. has close proximity to Haiti and is marshaling aid via military/Coast Guard ships. Brenda just sent information about U.S. military actions to help Haiti, which I will put up below.

> Even though CNN is doing great coverage of the disaster and has already gotten what seems to be several reporters into Port au Prince, Fox cable now seems to be focusing on interviews with U.S. military/civilian government spokespersons stateside. So if you're following the situation via American TV, keep checking back at Fox News Cable as well -- and don't neglect their website if you can't get Fox cable.

> The U.S. Department of State is reportedly going to give a televised briefing at some point this afternoon on U.S. aid efforts. That according to Fox. We'll see.

> Also, don't neglect Wikipedia as a source. As they did with the swine flu outbreak they've marshaled a small army of volunteers to keep the public updated. See 2010 Haiti Earthquake page. They provide information on international aid efforts, donations, etc.

> Okay, here's what Brenda sent. (When she crossposts this 12th update she'll be adding more videos.)

YouTube videos on SOCOM and USAID briefings on U.S. aid.

1. Report: U.S. Coast Guard, Navy head to Haiti to help with earthquake relief efforts.
U.S. Coast Guard crews are clearing ports in Haiti of debris and flying overhead to assess damage today while Navy sailors are en route to the country in the wake of Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

Coast Guard vessels and aircraft left for Haiti at 3:30 this morning, with the cutters tasked with making sure the ports are open and free of debris so relief supplies can arrive and the aircraft charged with assessing the damage and identifying places where people need help, said Petty Officer James Harless, of Coast Guard District 7 in Miami.

The Coast Guard sent four cutters to Haiti — Valiant, from Miami; Forward, from Portsmouth, Va.; Tahoma, from Portsmouth, N.H., and Mohawk, from Key West, Fla. The Coast Guard also sent two C-130 aircraft, one fixed-wing Falcon and three HH-60 "Jayhawks."

A Coast Guard helicopter evacuated four critically injured U.S. Embassy staff to the naval station in Guantanamo for treatment, a statement from the U.S. Southern Command said.

"This is just a really bad situation with a lot of devastation, and unfortunately it looks like a lot of loss of life," said Lt. Cmdr. Rob Wyman, Coast Guard Atlantic Area public affairs officer. "We're engaged and acting quickly to get the right pieces in place to contribute to the overall response effort. We're doing everything we can right now."

The U.S. Southern Command is sending a team of 30 people to Haiti to support the relief efforts. The team includes military engineers, planners, a command and control group and communication specialists.

A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft from the Forward Operating Location at Comalapa, El Salvador, took off early this morning to survey the area affected by the earthquake and a Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, is expected to arrive off the coast of Haiti Thursday, according to SOUTHCOM.

The Air Force is going to the international airport at Port au Prince to help with air traffic control and airfield operations. They are expected to arrive in Haiti this afternoon.

President Barack Obama said in a statement that he has directed the administration to "respond with a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives."

"The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble, and to deliver the humanitarian relief, the food, water and medicine, that Haitians will need in the coming days," Obama said. "In that effort, our government, especially USAID and the Departments of State and Defense are working closely together and with our partners in Haiti, the region, and around the world."

Obama designated the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Dr. Rajiv Shah, to be the government's unified disaster coordinator.
2. Report:
The U.S. military has a long history of involvement in Haiti, including major interventions like Operation Uphold Democracy in 1994 and 1995. More recently, Haiti has been a destination for military-led humanitarian assistance missions like Continuing Promise 2009, pictured here. The Associated Press, quoting White House sources, says that less than 20 U.S. military personnel are currently in the country, and they are prepared to take part in humanitarian operations.
3. Report:
Thousands of Hampton Roads sailors received orders this morning to prepare to deploy to Haiti as part of a massive U.S. effort to deliver humanitarian assistance in the wake of Tuesday’s devastating earthquake.

At least four Norfolk-based ships are getting ready to leave for the impoverished country, said Ted Brown, a spokesman with Norfolk’s Fleet Forces Command. The amphibious assault ship Bataan, the guided missile cruiser Normandy and the dock landing ships Fort McHenry and Carter Hall will likely leave port by Friday, the Navy said.

Expeditionary forces based at the Little Creek campus of the Joint Expeditionary Base also are preparing to deploy, Brown said.

Additional Navy ships that will deliver humanitarian assistance include the frigate Underwood, based in Mayport, Fla., and the hospital ship Comfort, homeported in Baltimore.

The San Diego-based aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, which left Norfolk on Tuesday after finishing its midlife overhaul, has been redirected to load equipment and supplies to assist in the recovery, Brown said.

Several U.S. Coast Guard ships also have been deployed to the area, including the Portsmouth-based cutter Forward, which arrived in Haiti early this morning, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Steve Carleton. The Coast Guard’s first order of business will be to assess whether main ports near Port-au-Prince are clear to receive ships carrying aid, Carleton said.
UPDATE 3:00 PM

> CNN reported at 2:45 PM that "miraculously" Haitians are uploading images of the devastation and relief work to social media sites, notably YouTube and Facebook. "The images are flooding in." This is helping aid workers, government disaster planners get a handle on the situation.

Miraculous is right; last night reports were that cell phone towers were down -- obviously, not all of them, even though it's still extremely hard to get calls into and out of Haiti.

This is a history-making use of Web 2.0; the trend was obvious during the Iranian protests last year, when social media played the critical role in getting out news. But the use of social media in Haiti is providing unprecedented intel in a disaster of this kind, which will translate to many lives saved.

> Also, just now, from Fox Cable News:

"There is no clean water in Haiti." I think they must mean in Port au Prince and suburbs, but in any case the water situation for about two million people is dire.

Huge need for donated blood.

Main prison "out of commission." (General Foley was asked during his 12:40 PM for SOCOM whether the Pentagon was considering transferring prisoners frm the prison to Guantanamo. He said the situation was under review.)

(3:10 PM Fox) Military confirmed only one runway in operation. Ships from U.S. will play a major role in getting aid to Haiti

> CNN: Dr Sanjay Gupta is now on the ground in Port au Prince. I assume he's simply dived in and is giving medical assistance in any way he can and will report on a catch-can basis. CNN has seemingly marshaled every one of their bureaus around the world to work on this story. They've recognized the importance of this story and are giving it full attention.
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UPDATE 12:45 PM

All these reports from CNN:

> Gen. Foley SOCOM press briefing on Haiti at 12:40 PM: Runway at international airport seems in good condition but control tower does not have communications and passenger terminal is damaged. Another source mentioned only one runway -- not clear on that, or whether it's just that only one runway is operable. SOCOM still assessing the situation there but Navy carrier, Coast Guard cutter and ships on the way.

> There are between 40-45,000 Americans in Haiti; many are unaccounted for.

> Anderson Cooper landed in Haiti around noon. He's already given a report from the streets of Port au Prince near the destroyed cathedral. Before he lost audio around 1:15 PM he mentioned he was heading for the hospital -- whether this means there's only one hospital functioning, unknown. Anderson or his camera person got a lot of footage of rescue efforts, devastation.

He reported seeing at least 25 bodies in the streets during his drive; people using their bare hands, shovels, pick axes to dig out survivors under the rubble.

He said electricity and water are out.

> Doctors without Borders reports that several of their people are unaccounted for and that all three of their aid stations are "inoperable" because of the quake.

> At least 15 UN peacekeeping troops in addition to at least 100 UN staff dead or missing.

> Red Cross reports that all local relief agencies are overwhelmed.

> Haitian PM reports to CNN that the aid agencies that usually can be depended on to help are in need in help. Either he or the President estimated "hundreds of thousands" dead. To my knowledge there is no footage yet of the huge shanty towns in the mountains around Port au Prince, where we can expect that many were killed during the quake.

> In 2008 Port au Prince mayor turned in a report saying that 60 per cent of the city's buildings were shoddy construction.

> At this point, from all the reports and the footage I've seen, there is calm in the streets and if there's looting, it doesn't seem to be widespread at this point. Clearly the residents of Port au Prince are pulling together in the rescue effort. However, many if not most of the residents are simply out in the streets, with nowhere to go. The water situation could approach crisis level if not fixed soon.

> RBO has added more videos, including two from CNN and a third on the UN building, to their crosspost of my latest update.
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UPDATE 11:00 AM
Fox News, 8 minutes ago:
Haiti Archbishop Killed in Quake as Churches, Cathedral Reduced to Rubble[...] The body of Msgr. Joseph Serge Miot, 65, was found under the rubble of the archdiocese, and may be one of only hundreds of victims trapped in the ruins of the building.

The apostolic nuncio in Haiti, Msgr. Bernardito Auza, said that the cathedral and all the major churches and semiaries in Port-au-Prince were devastated and reduced to piles of rubble. Hundreds of seminarians and priests were trapped in the rubble, he told Vatican Radio.
See Fox for link to translation of Vatican announcement.

All right; I really am logging off now.
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UPDATE 8:40 AM Wednesday
> Just getting back online. This morning Brenda Elliot at RBO crossposted this post and added several videos.

> The timing of the Haiti quake is like the one in Indonesia last year -- it struck just around dinner time, a little before 5 PM; that means many people were in their homes.

> Reuters reports World Bank office in Haiti "destroyed" and "most bank employees were accounted for." The Bank announced last night that they're "ready to send a team to Haiti to assess the extent of damage caused by the earthquake and begin working on plans for rebuilding the country." Bank will "mobilize aid" but no specifics yet on the dollar amount.

> CNN reported that the U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Tahoma, will be heading for Haiti (or is already enroute).

> I don't know how much they have in Dominican Republic by way of earth-moving machines but probably not much more than in Haiti, which has practically none. So unless US, other countries, are airlifting in those machines, well, there won't be many survivors in places where they can't dig out trapped people with their bare hands and hand tools -- unless they can get the machines there fast by ships. U.S. also checking whether the international airport runway is in good enough shape to take large cargo planes.

> Freedom Fairy commented at RBO, "The rate of poverty and the general lack of ANYTHING will make this a decade-long recovery to get back to zero."

Right. Haiti doesn't have oil, natural gas, or any significant strategic resources that would make it an attractive candidate for nation building. And it's not in a strategic location for any world power. But maybe the scope of the earthquake disaster will galvanize the U.S., France, and other countries to redouble poverty-reduction measures there.

> I'm signing off for the rest of the day. It seems half the reporters on the planet are headed for Haiti. CNN's coverage is excellent, from what I saw last night. Uppity Woman has posted videos and photos (some graphic) and comment threads. And as I mentioned last night, social media are doing heavy lifting on reports out of Haiti, which are still hard to come by. See Twitter and Facebook.
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UPDATE 1:30 AM Wednesday
Thoughts before I sign off:

Haiti trumps all other news tomorrow and maybe for rest of week

Dawn in Port au Prince will tell the scope of the damage but if it's as bad as feared -- major humanitarian disaster along the lines of 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. This could bring up an indictment of US policies: ranging far and wide but not paying enough attention to our part of Western Hemisphere.

The quake depth in Haiti was shallow (6 miles) and the 'run' was only 15 miles, even though the fault is much longer. Shallow and compact, which is what made it so deadly, according to the CNN meteorologist.
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UPDATE 12:35 AM
CNN anchor: "Port au Prince is largely destroyed."

Contrary to earlier reports this wasn't the worst earthquake in recorded history to hit Haiti; there was one in the 1940s that was 8.0. (The New York times reports, however, that the quake is "the worst in the region in more than 200 years.")
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UPDATE 12:25 AM
> Some buildings in presidential palace have collapsed but CNN has received confirmation that Haiti's President is safe.

> One US official: "Expect large number of casualties."

> CNN reporter who's been in Port au Prince several times said that the horror of the situation is that the slums are built up the hillsides and that domiciles on the inclines are so densely packed, almost on top of each other, that a vehicle can't get through. In one slum alone there are about 230,00 people.
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UPDATE 12:10 AM
> CNN - UN - Richard Roth on phone from New York: Re UN HQ collapse in Port au Prince; 5 story bldg., bldg. can hold about 230 people. UN reports that many staff (from countries around the world) unaccounted for; UN trying to learn how many trapped/dead. Other UN buildings around the city damaged; UN can't determine extent of damage or number of victims.

> UN has had 9,000 peacekeepers stationed in Haiti for years, which has helped the country stabilize.

> From an earlier CNN report: one reason for extensive devastation is massive deforestation because of cutting down trees to use for household fuel; this means few tree roots to absorb the earthquake shocks/after-shocks.
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UPDATE 11:00 PM
Anderson Cooper just said at some point he's turning rest of tonight's show over to Tom Foreman or another CNN reporter; Anderson said he's going to try to get a flight to Dominican Republic or Haiti. He just reported that supposedly the border between Dominican Republic and Haiti is closed.

> Ministry of Commerce in Port au Prince and UN HQ have collapsed and presidential palace has been damaged although how much is unclear.

> Part of the problem is something called an "S Wave" -- which CNN weather reporter just explained -- the way the shocks travel from that particular kind of earthquake. The wave puts the top and bottom of buildings out of alignment, so it's not just shoddy construction that's causing so many collapses.

> The weather reporter also mentioned that an earthquake expert had warned in 2008 that Haiti would be struck by a major earthquake, which the expert pegged at 7.2. So he wasn't off by much.

> CNN reports that a big problem is that there are few earth-moving machines and other types of machines that can help dig people out of the rubble. Reportedly there are many cries for help, many trapped.
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UPDATE - 10:43 PM
Anderson Cooper 360 at CNN doing wall-to-wall coverage of Haiti earthquake and it looks as if CNN will go all night or most of it on the story. After Greta Van Susteren's show on Fox New Cable(10-11 PM), that cable station will probably bed down for the night, if the Jakarta hotel bombings last year were any indication. CNN stayed with that story from the moment it broke, Fox got their beauty sleep. CNN reports just now 17 aftershocks above 4.0
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UPDATE - 10:06 PM
John Batchelor reports on his radio show from news source in Dominican Republic with reporter in Port au Prince:
"cell towers down across Haiti"
"airport down" (This is seemingly contradicted by an eyewitness account, but that was from earlier in the night -- see below. 1:00 AM update -- airport is okay)
"hospital down, major school down, presidential palace down" (palace may only be badly damaged; again, reports are unclear.)
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My emails to correspondent re quake; all times are Eastern Standard; I corrected some data as more information became available:
7:20 PM

"As of now the President of the Dominican Republic is unable to reach Haiti's President" -- he'd tried to call to offer help. This report to Shep Smith at Fox frm Wendell Goler, Fox political reporter, who happened to be in Dominican Republic when 7.0 earthquake hit epicenter 10 miles west of Haiti's capital city Port au Prince. Even though Wendell "as far away from epicenter as he could be on the island, quake still felt."

Other reports Campbell Brown at CNN/Shep Smith at Fox
> Quake hit about 3 hrs ago.

> Tsunami watch has just been called off (7:57 PM)

> Only 1,00 hospital beds in Haiti

> Lights out. Raining for days.

> hospitals, parliamentary buildings, schools have collapsed. "Only blessing is that there aren't any skyscrapers to collapse."

> Quote from someone on the ground in Haiti "There's no 911 here and even if there was 911 there are no fire engines and even if there were fire engines there are no roads on which they can travel."

> Aid worker in Port au Prince reported that from his apartment bldg. he saw large plane taking off from international airport after the quake so it seemed the airport was still functioning.

8:30 PM
Haiti updates frm AP, CNN: "Chaos, Disaster, Terror, Panic"

> Social media sites (e.g. Facebook) playing big role in getting out news, images. Communications down -- phone lines, radio, TV out; few cell phones -- most out.

25 minutes ago frm AP: "Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Joseph, said from his Washington office that he spoke to President Rene Preval's chief of staff, Fritz Longchamp, just after the quake hit. He said Longchamp told him that "buildings were crumbling right and left" near the national palace. He said he had not been able to get through by phone to Haiti since."

Combined reports from USAID official in Port au Prince and Haiti relief expert . CNN getting a report just now from aid worker on site via Skype

> Only road to capital city Port au Prince impassable

> Largest earthquake in region's recorded history.

"The temblor appeared to have occurred along a strike-slip fault, where one side of a vertical fault slips horizontally past the other"

> at least 4 aftershocks; one registered at 5.9

> There are two functioning firehouses in Haiti

> 1 hospital collapse so far - cries for help heard

> Not total blackout but "most" electricity down (and all electricity seems to be down in capital "pitch black" -- massive traffic jams no one knows what to do, where to go)

> Large number of un-reinforced concrete structures -- no building codes. Both officials expressed fear that these structures would pancake.

> Doesn't seem to be raining right now; one official described large dust plume after quake -- one aid official said this suggests large number of concrete structures collapsed.

AP report
> [US] State Dept. has activated disaster relief plan, officials meeting now.

An Associated Press videographer saw the wrecked hospital in Petionville, a hillside Port-au-Prince district that is home to many diplomats and wealthy Haitians, as well as many poor people. Elsewhere in the capital, a U.S. government official reported seeing houses that had tumbled into a ravine.

8:40 PM
> Aid worker outside capital reporting via Skype to CNN that he felt small aftershock 2 min ago

> Check out Facebook for images, also Twitter; social media carrying only news aside from few cell, Skype calls.

> As of now (8:45PM ) 13 aftershocks in the past three hours, 7 of them above 5.0 - 5.0 a major earthquake in itself. Quake hit densely populated area; many living on cliffsides.

> 83% Haitians live below poverty line - $2 a day or less - poorest nation in Western Hempishere -- 53% illiteracy rate.

> U.S. Geological Survey said (according to AP report) that quake had a depth of 5 miles (1 report on CNN said it had depth of 6 miles)

> ? Capital city alone has 2-3 million Haitians - city built to house only 250K. Shanties built up hillsides -- US official tells CNN he fears they've all collapsed

> "Impact your world" website at CNN shows some aid organizations specifically helping Haiti

Some orgs frm CNN website:

"A major earthquake struck near Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, the USGS reported. Haiti's ambassador to the U.S. said one witness described it as a "catastrophe." Here are some organizations specifically helping Haiti. [...]

How you can help:
• International Medical Corps
• Direct Relief International
• World Vision
• International Relief Teams
• Yéle Haiti
• International Red Cross
• CARE
• Catholic Relief Services
• World Food Programme
• World Concern
• Save the Children
• UNICEF USA
• More ways to help victims of NATURAL DISASTERS"
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