Haiti earthquake: 'Thousands poured out, crying and carrying bodies'

Five eyewitnesses tell their stories

Bob Poff, disaster co-ordinator of the Salvation Army

"When the earthquake struck, I was driving down the mountain from Pétionville [a suburb of Port-au-Prince, the capital]. Our truck was being tossed to and fro like a toy, and when it stopped, I looked out of the windows to see buildings 'pancaking' down, like I have never witnessed. Traffic came to a standstill, while thousands of people poured out into the streets, crying, carry­ing bodies, looking for anyone who could help them. We piled bodies into the back of our truck, and took them down the hill with us, hoping to find medical attention. All of them were older, scared, bleeding and terrified. It took about two hours to go less than one mile. Traffic was horrible, devastation was everywhere, and suffering humanity was front and centre."

Sophie Perez, country director for Care International

"People were screaming, crying, running. Everything was moving. I saw a building of nine floors collapse right in front of me. A bank collapsed. Even if a building isn't totally destroyed, you can't access the area because of the danger … we're particularly worried about the children, because so many schools seem to have collapsed. In Haiti children go to school in the afternoon. Children were still in school when the earthquake hit, so there are many children trapped. It's horrifying. The slums on the hills have also completely collapsed. We have heard of landslides, with entire ­communities being wiped out … there were eight aftershocks during the night and we woke up every time. My children are terrified. Everyone is terrified."

Susan Westwood, a Scottish nurse working at an orphanage just outside Port-au-Prince, spoke to the BBC

"I was in the intensive care room looking after a nine-month-old baby girl when the earthquake hit. The floor started shaking violently and the whole building shook from side to side. It lasted about 45 seconds. After that there was a constant shuddering. The babies were really frightened and started to cry. Other staff and carers were screaming, they were so terrified … I couldn't stand upright so I dropped to my knees. I was able to keep hold of the baby girl and I grabbed hold of another baby. Objects were falling from shelves, there was debris crashing all around. I clung on to the babies and shielded them as best I could. Then came the aftershocks. It was impossible to even move. After a while we managed to take all the children out on to the driveway. We spent the whole night outside. It was chilly but we were OK. Some children are dehydrated now though because we couldn't get any medical supplies out of the building. There were eight aftershocks during the night, and we woke up every time. My children are terrified. Everyone is terrified."

Carel Pedre, a Haitian radio DJ

"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. I saw a movie theatre, a supermarket, a cybercafe, an apartment building, which collapsed. 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. There are aftershocks every 15 to 20 minutes. They last from three to five seconds. The first shock was really strong, people were falling in the streets and buildings collapsed."

Apostolic nuncio to Haiti Archbishop Bernardito Auza

"The national palace is on the ground. This morning I went to express my condolences and solidarity to the president, who was saved because he was outside with his family. His private house is destroyed. All the ministries were destroyed. The parliament with the senators, schools with children, supermarkets, all reduced to nothing. The UN headquarters was reduced to a cloud of cement and hundreds of people were trapped, including Hedi Annabi, the head of the UN mission."


Esther Addley

The GuardianTramp

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