Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Major Earthquake Hits Haiti

Aired January 12, 2010 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We welcome our viewers here at home and around the world watching.

We're following the breaking news out of Haiti. A massive catastrophic earthquake has struck the country, the worst quake in centuries. We are closely following the latest developments on this natural disaster, and we are going to bring it to you live over the next two hours.

We are going to talk with the Haitian ambassador to the United States who is providing with -- providing us with the newest information on the toll this unfolding tragedy is taking. He will tell us about humanitarian efforts under way to try to help the country and victims. He says this is the worst day in Haiti's history.

We will also talk live with Wyclef Jean. The singer/songwriter/activist who was born in Haiti is reaching out to his fans and others to try to help. Wyclef Jean is going to be with us in a moment as well.

We will also talk live via Skype with an aid worker on the ground outside of Port-au-Prince.

But, first up, here's what we know right now. It is night in Haiti. Cries can be heard echoing through the streets, cries for help, cries of pain. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck southern Haiti just before 5:00 p.m. Eastern, the capital, Port-au-Prince, taking a powerful hit, the full extent of the damage not yet known.

But from what we are hearing and what we can see in pictures on Twitter and other places online, it is significant. The quake struck near the earth's surface about 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. The city is home to some two million people. And a lot of the structures there are flimsy, to say the least.

A U.N. official has told CNN that the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission outside Port-au-Prince has collapsed. There are also reports that part of the presidential palace and a large hospital in Port-au-Prince have collapsed, as well as a large hotel. CNN has not yet confirmed those reports. Again, these are early reports. We cannot independently verify them.

The U.S. military says it is preparing -- and I quote -- to deliver "massive humanitarian aid." More than a dozen aftershocks followed the quake, the largest measuring magnitude 5.9. Now the good news, if you can call that it at all, a tsunami watch and warning issued after the quake were called off hours ago.

Meteorologist Chad Myers joins me now with more details.

Chad, exactly what happened with this earthquake today?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This was a slip fault, a lot like the World Series fault, an earthquake that we had years ago during the World Series.

There is a fault line right through Haiti in the Dominican Republic, one side of the fault going one way, the other side of the fault going the other way. And it slipped. And that slip caused the shaking, causing 7.0 for the magnitude.

The problem, Anderson, is that this fault and this shake was only six miles deep. And that's a problem. If it was 200 miles deep, there would be attenuation. There would be -- as the earth would shake, it would shake less at the surface, because there is so much distance. There wasn't that distance in between where the earth shook and where the surface of the earth is.

And, since then, we have over 15 aftershocks. Let's drive right down into the city, right down. There is the major quake right there, 15 aftershocks around that. Now, some of the aftershocks have been bigger than five, one of them, 5.9. And that's a big earthquake all by itself.

Now, we call it an aftershock because there was a bigger earthquake earlier. Otherwise, it would just be called an aftershock. And, so, as we look at this, and we see this major, major damage happening, then the buildings continue to shake, while more damage is occurring then, because the broken buildings are shaking to the ground.

I found a very important article. This was 2008. Can there possibly be an earthquake in Port-au-Prince? Yes, it was predicted by that man right there, Patrick Charles. I will read the article to you in a few minutes.

COOPER: All right, Chad, you know, as I have been saying, getting information out of Haiti right now has been tough. All the phone lines are down, electricity. But it is trickling in.

Here's what a student in Cap-Haitien, on Haiti's northern coast, far away from the epicenter of this thing, said she felt when the quake struck.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SYLOVE JEAN, STUDENT IN HAITI: I was inside the house playing with a lot of kids. And then I felt all the house just shaking with me. Even the couch I sat on, I felt it shaking with me.

This is my first time I felt an earthquake longer than I ever feel in my life.

QUESTION: Have you heard from your family? Have you heard anything?

JEAN: No, nothing, because I'm not in my house right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: OK. And, again, that is Cap-Haitien.

Our focus is Port-au-Prince, where this thing hit. That's what it felt like in the north.

Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Joseph, joins me now from Washington.

Ambassador Joseph, I appreciate you being with us.

What is the latest you're hearing from your government about the situation on the ground?

RAYMOND ALCIDE JOSEPH, HAITIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have not heard a lot from the government, except that the consul general of Haiti in Miami, Florida, spoke with the first lady.

And she said: Let them know that the president is fine. I am OK.

However, the palace itself has been -- crumbled and has some damages. Some other buildings, buildings of government, like the finance ministry, the commerce ministry, have been damaged.

Earlier in the day, I was able to speak to the secretary-general to the president, Mr. Fritz Longchamp. And that was the first person I talked to and the only one I talked to. And he was traveling east from Port-au-Prince in his car on the road called (INAUDIBLE) and he said the buildings started to collapse on the right, on the left, and he had to get out of his car and start walking, going home, not knowing whether he would reach there.

COOPER: We talked, Mr. Ambassador, to a man in Petionville who says there is widespread damage there. There are reports that the Montana Hotel has chanced. I don't know if you have heard those reports as well. Again, we have not been able to independently confirm those.

That just -- to anyone who has traveled to Haiti, that's a sign of just how serious this is. That is a well-built hotel. It's a major hotel. I can only imagine what is happening in Cite Soleil and other places, where you have essentially shanty-like structures built in some cases on the sides of mountains that are, you know, devastated, have nothing to stop them from just collapsing.

What is your greatest concern right now? Where is your greatest concern?

JOSEPH: My greatest concern is for those people who are trapped in those debris.

And I am appealing to the world, especially to the United States, to do what they did for us back in 2008, when four hurricanes hit Haiti in a matter of three weeks. At that time, the U.S. had dispatched the U.S. Comfort, a hospital ship, off the coast of Haiti. I hope that that will be done again and be able to take care of the wounded -- we don't know how many -- and help us of this dire -- in this dire situation that we find ourselves in.

COOPER: You know, Haiti has seen, as you said, not just those hurricanes, but an untold number of difficulties. The Haitian people are remarkably strong. What is your message to them tonight and to those watching around the world right now who might want to help?

JOSEPH: My message to the Haitian people is to remember that we come in the world as a nation because of unity. In fact, that was the slogan that brought us to the world. In unity, there is strength.

In time like this, I am asking the Haitians who are abroad to work together and bring all the efforts in a concerted manner to help those back home. And I'm asking the world also to remember, especially our brothers and sisters in South America, to remember that, in 1800, 1804, when Haiti became independent, there were two independent countries in the world, the United -- in this hemisphere, I will say, the United States and Haiti.

And Haiti was the country that gave support to all of South America to liberate themselves. Today, Haiti, they are in a situation of need. I'm asking for solidarity with my country.

COOPER: Mr. Ambassador, no doubt we will be talking to you in the days and weeks ahead. I appreciate your time tonight. And our thoughts and prayers are with you and all the people of Haiti right now.

We're just getting our first video in of the quake aftermath. Take a look. This is what it looked like just after the quake hit -- daylight still hours away in Haiti right now, poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, possibly the least equipped to absorb such a blow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: With us from Port-au-Prince is Ian Rodgers. He's the senior emergency adviser for the group Save the Children.

Ian, at this point, it is obviously nighttime in Port-au-Prince. What are you hearing around you? What have you seen?

IAN RODGERS, SENIOR EMERGENCY ADVISER, SAVE THE CHILDREN: OK.

Well, obviously, before nightfall, we were seeing the devastation that is surrounding where we are at the moment. We're in quite a high-up area within Port-au-Prince. A lot of buildings have fallen and obviously slid off the mountainside.

What we're hearing now is kind of a mixture of sounds. Some of it is obviously the distress and concern and grief of people mixed with cheering, where, obviously, people are being pulled out of the rubble and saved. So, it's quite a surreal sound that is surrounding currently where our office is at this time.

COOPER: It has got to be, I mean, surreal and haunting, both the cries of joy and cries of pain.

RODGERS: That's right.

I mean, obviously, it is this mixed emotion, where there is, obviously -- you are hearing the grief of people as they realize they have lost people, or they can't find their children, or, you know, children and families have separated in the rubble.

But, then again, you suddenly hear these cries come out from a lot of different people, obviously, people who are rescuing other people from the rubble, as somebody comes out alive and they're managing to free somebody.

COOPER: You said you're in a high area. Are you in Petionville?

RODGERS: That's correct, yes.

COOPER: OK. And, for those who don't know, Petionville is an area, kind of a high area in Haiti, a lot of nice houses, nice properties. It's where some of the hotels are. And you say there is widespread damage in that area?

RODGERS: That's correct. I mean, it is -- at the moment, the situation is, obviously, it's dark, and we can't carry out any assessments right this second.

But what we're worrying about in the morning is the fact that most of the roads have either collapsed or been -- are currently covered in rubble. We have got a backup plan at the moment. Thankfully, we have got some motorcycles on hand, which we now have prepped this evening, so that, first thing in the morning, we will be able to go out and do our assessments and look at what needs are going to be there.

And, regretfully, I suspect there's going to be significant needs. There's going to be a large loss of life and there's going to be, obviously, significant injury.

COOPER: Another concern is that, in Haiti, and even around Port- au-Prince, a lot of the mountainsides are completely barren of trees. People have cut down the trees in order -- for firewood, to make charcoal and the like. And, so, you don't have any shrubbery or trees that can prevent the mud on these mountains from just cascading down.

So, it is likely -- and I guess this is partially why some of the roads are blocked -- that you are going to see mountains -- the sides of mountains coming town. Is that correct?

RODGERS: That's -- I think you're 100 percent correct in your assessment. Obviously, the deforestation and the environmental degradation that has occurred in Haiti over these years, for people foraging for firewood and to build structures due to the level of poverty here, this is going to cause significant problems to be able to do that, to be able to -- we will see that the situation is going to be made -- exacerbated even further.

COOPER: Are you hearing any -- at this point at night, any heavy machinery, anything that sounds like it is from the government, or any bulldozers or anything involved in rescue efforts, or is it all very much piecemeal, very sort of local communities trying to help one another?

RODGERS: No.

Unfortunately, I haven't heard a vehicle travel down in this area since the earthquake. Certainly, our staff who are in other parts of the city aren't able to get back to where we are. And, so, it is possible to travel up in the hills, but, in this area currently, it is not possible to get any heavy-lift equipment in.

The only heavy equipment I have seen at the moment is that there has been helicopter activity, which I understand is focusing on the evacuation of one particular hotel that has been completely destroyed and damaged.

COOPER: Is that the Montana Hotel?

RODGERS: That's -- I believe so. That's correct. Obviously, I'm not there at the moment, but that's the information we are receiving from our staff, who are at the -- at the U.N. compound (INAUDIBLE) location.

COOPER: I have heard other reports about the Montana as well. Again, we have not been able to independently verify any of those reports. But, if that is true, the Montana Hotel, for those who don't know, is a major hotel in Port-au-Prince, one of the nicest hotels, a place where many under U.N. workers and others stay.

Again, there is a lot to report about what is happening.

Ian Rodgers, I appreciate you talking about what you have seen, because, at this point, that's about all we can go on, what individuals have seen and hearing -- and what they are hearing and seeing right around them, because there are no fatality reports at this stage. We don't have a sense of the scale of this.

But there's a lot of concern right now about what we are going to find when daybreak comes.

Ian Rodgers, appreciate your time. We will be checking in with you throughout the next several days.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And we have much more ahead on this breaking story. We're getting new information in by the minute.

You can join the live chat now under way at AC360.com.

Coming up, I will talk to singer/songwriter and humanitarian Wyclef Jean. He's with me here. His foundation has given scholarships to thousands of students in Haiti. We will talk to him.

Plus, all the new developments on the ground in Haiti as they come into our newsroom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Hawaii to give a speech when she got word of the Haiti earthquake.

Here's what she said a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I want to just say a few words about developments in Haiti.

We are still gathering information about this catastrophic earthquake, the point of impact, its effect on the people of Haiti. The United States is offering our full assistance to Haiti and to others in the region. We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, and our prayers are with the people who have suffered, their families and their loved ones.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It is a difficult night ahead for many Americans waiting to hear from their loved ones in Haiti.

Joining me now is singer Wyclef Jean, the nephew of Haiti's ambassador who you heard from earlier, Raymond Joseph. Also with us, Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat.

I appreciate both of you being with us.

Wyclef, have you heard from your family and friends in Haiti? What are you hearing?

WYCLEF JEAN, MUSICIAN: Yes.

Well, actually, I was on the phone with a friend in Haiti. And she says, I think an earthquake is coming.

And the phone goes off.

COOPER: Oh, really?

JEAN: After that, I text, and it took 45 minutes to get a text back. She said that she was outside with her kids and that the buildings have just started collapsing. So, this is how this conversation went on.

Right now, I'm in the process of looking for a young rapper that went to Haiti to do a mix tape. His name is Jimmy O. It came through a text that he died. He was part of the Yele Haiti, the foundation. So, I urge everyone who is listening right now that knows how great this kid is in Haiti, I need to you all to verify this information. It would be a terrible loss for us.

COOPER: Edwidge, I know you have been trying to get in touch with your family as well. Have you had any luck?

EDWIDGE DANTICAT, HAITIAN-BORN AUTHOR: No, we haven't been able to.

We have mostly tried to patch together information based on others we have heard from. And -- but I have family in Carrefour, which some are saying is somewhat the epicenter. And we have family in Delmas and in Bel Air. But no calls are going through and we haven't heard anything.

COOPER: It is stunning. I mean, for those of us who know Haiti and love it and have been there a lot, I mean, to think that Haiti now has to go through this, what Haitians have been forced to deal with for decades now, it is just -- it's one thing after another.

JEAN: I mean, it is definitely one thing out of another.

But I think, right now, the most important thing is, as you're on CNN, you're talking about it. Hillary Clinton is talking about it, giving help. President Obama is giving help. Keep in mind, there's four million Haitians that are outside of Haiti. So, I think this is the type for the diaspora, the Haitians that are outside of Haiti to step up, and to call their councilman, call the Congress, and say, you know what, we need a state of emergency for our country.

This is the most important thing, because as we are sitting here right now, there are people in the dark that are dead. And we ain't going to know what happens until the morning. So, my urgency right now is really a cry of freedom, saying, we really need a state of emergency, like right now.

You know, the hurricane, we just came from the hurricane. And it seems like it is a disaster after disaster. But I think the Haitians that are in America now, we need to step up.

COOPER: Edwidge, as Wyclef Jean said, it is nightfall there. It's nighttime there. It's the same time as it is on the East Coast of the United States.

You're out of electricity, no phone service, you know, maybe have a collapsed building. And one man I talk to in Petionville just a moment ago said, you know, he has not heard any heavy equipment moving through. There's no bulldozers coming.

One can only imagine what this night right now is like for a huge number of people on the ground in Haiti.

DANTICAT: Oh, this is probably one of the darkest nights in our history. And I think only when the sun comes up will we get a sense of it.

This is a place that is really not equipped for this kind of rescue. I'm sure there are people who might have been saved if they were gotten to in time. But it is going to be astronomical.

And I just want to echo what Wyclef says. We're going to need an extraordinary amount of help in the days and months and years to come. I think this whole, the whole country basically is going to need rebuilding. And people who are the poorest of the poor, least able to withstand something like this, are suffering. And we absolutely need help. We need -- desperately, desperately need help.

COOPER: I know, Wyclef, you have a number that people can text to? Is that correct?

JEAN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I think we got it on the screen, Yele. It's Y-E-L-E?

DANTICAT: Yes. So, right now, you can text Yele. Text Yele to 501501. We're starting early, meaning it is still dark. So, we have to go ahead.

An, once again, I can't ask you all to help me unless I help myself. So, I'm urging once again, every Haitian people, go ahead, text that number. And, at the same time, we're asking for an emergency relief. But we have to start by acting right now. So, go right now and text Yele 501501 and start making donations right now.

COOPER: We're also going to -- it charges your phone, what, $5, I think.

DANTICAT: Yes. It charges your phone $5.

COOPER: Right.

We're also going to put on -- on our Web site other organizations which are working. Red Cross is trying to raise money as well. We will be putting that on throughout the night as our coverage continues.

Wyclef Jean, appreciate you being with us. I hope your friend is OK.

JEAN: Thank you. And you're going to Haiti?

COOPER: I'm -- I'm -- yes.

JEAN: OK.

COOPER: I'm hoping to hop on a flight in about two hours.

JEAN: OK. And I'm heading out there, too.

COOPER: OK.

JEAN: So, you need a translator.

COOPER: OK.

JEAN: I'm right there for you.

COOPER: All right.

JEAN: OK.

COOPER: I appreciate it.

JEAN: All right.

COOPER: Yes, my Creole is one or two sentences. That's about it.

JEAN: You got the (SPEAKING CREOLE).

COOPER: (SPEAKING CREOLE). That's all I know.

JEAN: All right. We will be all right.

COOPER: All right.

Edwidge Danticat, I appreciate you being with us. I hope you hear from your family as well.

And we want to go live...

DANTICAT: Thank you for having us. Keep us in your prayers.

COOPER: We certainly will.

We want to go live to Haiti right now. With me via Skype from about 40 miles outside Port-au-Prince is Gregory Van Schoyck. He's an aid worker with the Haitian American Friendship Foundation.

Gregory, first of all, where are you in Haiti, and what did you feel when the earthquake hit?

GREGORY VAN SCHOYCK, HAITIAN AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP FOUNDATION: OK.

We're located 80 miles north-northeast of Port-au-Prince on the central plateau of Haiti. We're on the main road that connects Port- au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, just north of the city of Hinche.

And, at about 4:56 this afternoon, my wife was working and said, hey, we're having an earthquake. And I had never -- we had never expected an earthquake before, at least here. We have had them, but we have slept through them, and they have been nothing major.

But, as we went outside, the ground was pitching a little. And we had difficulty walking. And our stone house was kind of groaning and moaning, and the tin roof was rattling. However, we had no damage to our home that I can see. We have had no reports of damage in the surrounding area. But the tremor went on for about four minutes, because I took a glass of water and put it on the ground, and -- because we could just feel the ground kind of swaying, but we watched the water for about four minutes. And it was shaking and jittering and vibrating.

And...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, in the area that you were, which, as you said, is some 40 miles from Port-au-Prince, you have not seen much damage?

VAN SCHOYCK: No. No, sir.

COOPER: That's great.

VAN SCHOYCK: We lost cell phone service immediately. We were -- we're concerned about our friends in Port-au-Prince.

But the people here have not reported any damage, to my -- to my knowledge. There's a lot of folk here that are going to be worried about their loved ones in Port-au-Prince. We have a lot of our former students who are down there at university. We have a lot of friends and family that we -- or friends that we care about here who have family members in Port-au-Prince.

And the -- probably, by tomorrow morning, the anxiety level in this area will be very high, because people will not be able to reach their loved ones. And, to my knowledge, the Internet is about the only way -- see, we have satellite Internet.

COOPER: Right.

VAN SCHOYCK: And I'm calling you over Skype. And that's probably about -- be about the best way, or the only way, we can communicate with the outside, until -- until cell phone service is restored.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, the fact that 40 mile away you haven't seen much -- much damage, that's going to be a relief, not only to people who have relatives in that town, but people who have relatives in that kind of a distance away from Port-au-Prince, to know that one town, at least, 40 miles away, did not have a great impact. That is certainly going to be relief to some who are watching tonight.

So, I appreciate you Skyping in with us.

We are going to continue with our coverage over the course of this next two hours.

Gregory Van Schoyck, stay safe. Thank you very much.

This is obviously a big incident, a big disaster. We're going to return after the break with the latest on the earthquake in Haiti. We will be talking to Americans live in Port-au-Prince. They will tell us what happened and more -- when the coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COOPER: If you're -- if you're just joining us, we're following the breaking news out of Haiti.

The largest, most powerful earthquake in the region's history has crippled the country. Measuring 7.0, its epicenter was just a few miles outside the capital, Port-au-Prince. There are reports of toppled buildings there. We have seen pictures of some dead bodies in the streets. There are reports of trapped victims screaming for help.

One aid worker told the AP he fears there may be thousands of people dead. But any accurate number at this point is impossible to give you. It is nighttime there. Nightfall came very quickly after this struck. So, again, the scope of the damage, we simply do not know.

But these early pictures, which were snapped by someone from a moving car, certainly are cause of concern.

President Obama says he is praying for those affected by the quake. He added that had the U.S. is standing by, ready to help. It is a very fluid situation. We're going to continue to bring you the latest as it comes in. I'm hoping to get on a flight in about two hours.

Clearly, this is an unfolding tragedy. It seems to be a massive scale at this point. We're going to have as much as we can reporting from the ground tomorrow night at this time.

Representative Maxine Waters of California is a longtime advocate for Haiti on capitol hill. She joins us now from Los Angeles.

You know, Congresswoman, it just seems like this country cannot get a break.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I know. It is just so tragic. And my heart goes out to all of the victims, all of the people of Haiti.

We've been working so hard trying to get over the devastation of the last four hurricanes that took place within weeks of each other in 2008, where the roads were wiped out and most of the agricultural land was devastated, and thousands upon thousands of houses collapsed and a lot of damage. And here, we're confronted with this.

And you know, we've been working on debt relief. We just got, finally, the World -- World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to complete the debt relief for $1 billion. And we thought, now Haiti will have some money to put into education and health. But you know, one step forward and three backwards. I'm just so concerned about what is happening there.

COOPER: In terms of -- in terms of Haiti's ability to help itself, in terms of the government's ability there to, you know, rescue people from buildings, how much confidence do you have, and how much concern do you have about getting heavy, earth-moving equipment to the places that it needs to get to?

WATERS: Well, I'm very concerned. They do not have the kind of heavy equipment that can be moved quickly and to accommodate many of the people who are in great distress. They just don't have that kind of system.

Don't forget: this is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. I mean, this is a nation where 50 percent of its people are illiterate. They just don't have the capability of responding to a disaster in ways that they should have, or you know, could have perhaps, if they had been able to manage the problems of Haiti over the years. They just are not in a position to do that.

And so I fear what we're going to discover tomorrow morning. You know, night fell and the electricity is out. And as I understand it, the palace collapsed. I've been in that palace many times. And if that palace collapsed, there were a lot of people who were caught in it, I would expect. Also -- yes, go ahead.

COOPER: I was just going to say, to me what is so surprising about if part of the palace collapsed, and we don't know -- have an accurate report of exactly what -- what has happened. But -- or even a major hotel or a U.N. compound is being said anecdotally.

What is happening in a place like Cite Soleil, where I think for folks who haven't been there, it is hard to understand the level of poverty. The level of strength and culture, yes, but also just dire, dire poverty, where -- where mothers...

WATERS: Dire poverty.

COOPER: Where people sell mud cakes on the street. So the mothers feed their kids mud cakes so that it fills their stomachs so their kids aren't hungry, but it's essentially made of mud. I mean, there's a level of poverty in this hemisphere which is -- frankly, it's shocking unless you've seen it for yourself.

WATERS: You're absolutely correct. In Cite Soleil, you have no running water. You have open sewers. You have the kind of situation that you just described, where people were feeding their children mud cakes because they had nothing. They were starving.

I don't know what's happening in Cite Soleil, but during the last four hurricanes, you know, it wiped out the city of Gonaives. I was there with the by centennial that took place there. And I could not imagine that that city had been destroyed after those hurricanes.

And God forbid that kind of devastation is taking place in Cite Soleil. They have nothing. They have nowhere to turn. And I'm sure that those shanties and those shacks, perhaps, have all collapsed. COOPER: Well, you know, if there is one thing that can -- also can be said, the strength of the Haitian people. And I know it maybe sounds like a cliche or a cheesy statement. But these are people who have weathered storms, both political and humanitarian before and continue to survive in the face of incredible obstacles. And I hope, you know -- I hope they have strength tonight. Because from these reports, they're going to need it in the days and just to get through this night.

WATERS: Well, I certainly hope so. And I'm so pleased that Hillary Clinton quickly announced our support and President Obama, not only his prayers, but his support. I expect the same thing from France and from Canada and from other countries, because they're going to need all of the help that they can get. This devastation sounds as if it's not going to be easy to come out from under.

COOPER: Congressman Waters, we appreciate your time tonight. We'll continue to check in with you. Thank you.

The worst day...

WATERS: Well, you're certainly are welcome.

COOPER: The worst day in Haitian history. So says Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph, an already impoverished country. Hundreds if not thousands are feared dead. Still ahead, an update from our international desk on the disasters. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We continue to bring you the latest information from on the ground in Haiti. We're hoping to get some more pictures in over the next several minutes, maybe even into the next hour in which we are live all the way through to midnight.

We want to go to our international desk, though, at CNN center in Atlanta. Michael Holmes bringing us up to date on the latest developments.

Michael, what are you hearing there?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. Yes, we're here at the international desk. This is like the engine room, if you like, of our coverage and how we're assigning people all around the world. And we've got people monitoring everything.

Now Danielle Deluce (ph) is here. Now, tell us what you have been hearing. Danielle is Haitian. She's been listening to local media. What have you got?

DANIELLE DELUCE (PH), CNN: Well, I'm hearing that people are getting trapped. I spoke with one gentleman who has his mother in Haiti who works closely with the minister of commerce in Haiti. And he said that he cannot get in touch with his mom even though...

HOLMES: You're hearing about a lot of casualties? A lot of damage?

DELUCE (PH): A lot of damage. And apparently, the ministry of commerce has collapsed completely. And people are crying. The streets are damaged. It's a lot of chaos.

HOLMES: We're hearing about a lot of people trapped, as well, Anderson.

Now Natalia (ph) here on our desk has got a great shot. Come in, Jeff. This is the palace. This is like the White House of Haiti. This is the before. Have a look at this one. It just came in on Twitpic, a social media thing.

Let's click across there, Natalia (ph), to the after. The -- there are a lot of social media stuff coming in. Look at this. Look at the damage that's been done. It's destroyed. It's pretty much collapsed from the top down.

As I say, social media playing a big role here. Facebook was the first place we got pictures.

Tyson Weekly (ph) is our iReport producer. Tyson, fill us in on what you've been getting?

TYSON WEEKLY (PH), CNN IREPORT PRODUCER: Well, we've been monitoring iReport all night. Whenever we get an iReport we make every effort to reach out to the submitter and try to get as much information as we can. Communication has been really tough, though, tonight.

These are some image that come to us from Phyllis Bass (ph). She's been working at a medical clinic, and these are some -- actually, some pretty graphic images that she's sharing to us from the situation there. She's been communicating back to her family in the states via text messaging.

These are from Jonathan de la Durante (ph). He's also -- he's an American doing missionary work there. He shared these images just north of Port-au-Prince in an area called Croix de Bouquets. You can see here, lots of damage there. You know, these are the types of stories that are helping us understand what's happening there.

HOLMES: We've got people working all through the night here, Anderson, getting this stuff. But it is interesting, again, seeing social media play a role. Same as we saw...

COOPER: Yes.

HOLMES: ... with developments in Iran and things like that. First pictures we saw were over here on a Facebook page, and we ended up getting that guy, his Facebook, the guy whose page it was, and got him on Skype for an interview. So it's all about the new technology, isn't it?

COOPER: Michael, going to be a long night for the folks at the Haiti desk. We appreciate all your hard work tonight. If you're curious about who we're following on Twitter about the story, you can logon to our Haiti Twitter list at Twitter.com/CNNbrk/Haiti. There you can see the tweets coming from the White House, the Red Cross, our CNN team of reporters, also people on the ground.

Ahead, we're going to have more on Haiti and the aftermath of today's catastrophic earthquake. The most powerful to hit that country in 200 years.

First, Jessica Yellin has an update, "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

An explosive materials spill closes a North Carolina port. Morehead City officials today shut down the port after nine drums of PETN were punctured by a forklift. A highly-explosive compound, PETN is one of the components used by the alleged Christmas-Day bomber.

That Somali teen charged in last spring's Maersk Alabama hijacking is now accused of attacks on two other ships. Federal prosecutors today charged the teen with boarding two vessels and holding the crews at gunpoint last March and April. One of the vessels is still being held hostage. The 18-year-old has not -- has pleaded not guilty.

Well, it's time to polish that resume. Starwood Hotels today announcing the creation of 12,000 new jobs, at least half here in the U.S. Target cities include New York City; Austin, Texas; and Biloxi, Mississippi.

In Hollywood, Conan O'Brien saying, "No thanks" to NBC. In a statement today, "The Tonight Show's" host rejected the network's attempt to push his time slot a half an hour, making room for Jay Leno's return to late night. O'Brien said he had hoped -- he hoped he and NBC could resolve this issue quickly but left his options decidedly open.

And now to Washington where two hairstylists testified today in the grand-jury investigation involving that couple who crashed the White House state dinner. The stylists are sharing the conversations they had with Tareq and Michaela Salahi last November when they spent hours at the salon, getting ready for the party.

Full disclosure? That is my own hairdresser. Really. That's Peggy.

COOPER: That guy?

YELLIN: Yes. Not the guy. The woman with him, yes.

COOPER: OK.

YELLIN: Say what you want about Michaela Salahi. She had good a blowout that night. COOPER: Well, I'll take your word for it.

YELLIN: Anderson, federal investigators are looking into whether the Salahis made false statements to the Secret Service, a felony which could mean up to five years.

COOPER: I love that you had to disclose that.

YELLIN: I just had to admit it.

COOPER: In case there is any controversial about that later.

YELLIN: I'm a good journalist that way.

COOPER: That's good. All right, Jessica, thanks.

You can join the live chat happening right now at AC360.com.

Still ahead, the latest from Haiti. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We are continuing to follow the information out of Haiti.

We just got a report from the Associated Press. At least two Americans, one of them a young aid worker related to a retired U.S. naval officer, are believed to be among those trapped in the wreckage. This information comes from a woman named Emily Smack (ph) at the Haitian Ministries for the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut. She's the executive director. She says two mission employees, the acting director, Julian Thorpe (ph), and a management consultant named Charles Dietch (ph), are believed to be trapped in their mission house.

Frank Thorpe (ph), the father of Julian Thorpe (ph), said that he'd been told his 24-year-old daughter-in-law had tried to call for help using her cell phone, that her leg was badly injured. His son, also named Frank, is safe. That a report from the Associated Press that we just received.

The news of loss and devastation continuing to mount in Haiti. There have been at least 13 aftershocks, some with a magnitude of at least 5.0 rattling an already traumatized capital. Meteorologist Chad Myers joins me now.

Chad, how many of these aftershocks are they, and how long after the initial quake can aftershocks continue?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: For months, literally. Probably more like weeks. But yes, no question about it, months.

We've had now 17 aftershocks above 4.5 and seven above 5.0. One of these aftershocks, Anderson, was a 5.9, which is a big earthquake by itself. We call it an aftershock because it was smaller than the original quake. It would be bigger than the original quake, then the original quake would be a foreshock rather than the aftershock. But still, a 5.9 is an earthquake, is an earthquake, is an earthquake, no matter how you say it.

This is the area of Port-au-Prince. And then along the mountain ranges here, where the land literally meets the valley, is where people have just placed all of their homes literally one on top of the other. And this is where the mountains have slid down, and a lot of these homes have collapsed.

The biggest problem today will be pancaking, as we call it. It's a word that we use to describe when a P-wave and then an S-wave come together after the shock. Look at this picture here. Go to iReport.com. And you can look at of the pictures coming in.

You talk about people trapped in the rubble. I can't imagine how that wouldn't be the case with rubble that looks like that.

So what exactly happened? And what is -- what is a P-wave and what is an S-wave? Here we go. We'll talk about the earthquake. It happened here along a front line. The fault line is just like the one at Loma Prieta (ph), the one just like the World Series earthquake. Part of the earth going that way. The other part of the earth going that way. It was a slip rather than the one that made the Banda Aceh tsunami. This didn't raise up. It just slipped sideways. And so that's the earthquake itself.

Two different type of waves hit Port-au-Prince. One like a chain reaction car crash where you've got a couple of cars. Somebody slammed into the back car. Boom, boom, boom, boom, and eventually the front car moves. That's the first wave. That's the p-wave. That's all the dirt hitting each other as it moves forward.

Then, the more destructive wave, called the s-wave. And it literally -- think of it, if you took a Slinky and you put on it a table and you just kind of shook it back and forth. It made this "S." That's why it is called an S-wave. What happens with an S-wave, it is very difficult for a building to stay standing up in an S-wave because the building does this.

It moves up and down. And then all of a sudden the top is not under the bottom, and the entire building collapses on itself. That's the pancaking effect.

Now, I want to take you to this because I teased this a little bit ago. This is from October of 2008. Can there possibly be an earthquake in Port-au-Prince? A very wise man, Patrick Charles from the Geological Institute of Havana, says, "Conditions are ripe for major seismic activity in Port-au-Prince. The inhabitants of the Haitian capital need to prepare themselves for an event which will inevitably occur."

Wow! He was predicting a 7.2. Today's was a 7.0 -- Anderson.

COOPER: And basically, there are two plates that run through the island, right? MYERS: Correct. Correct. It runs all the way through and into the D.R., into the Dominican Republic where you're eventually going to try to end up today.

The problem is, as it goes all the way through the D.R., the fissure, the rupture was only right here near the earthquake epicenter. It did not rupture all the way through the Dominican Republic, so there wasn't the magnitude of damage over on this side of the fault.

I mean, think about the San Andreas fault goes all the way through almost all of California, but it only ruptures every once in a while in a small, localized area. Well, Port-au-Prince was the localized area tonight on this fault.

COOPER: I guess -- I mean, not that that's anything that can come out of this, but that's another thing to be thankful for, that it didn't rupture all the way through the D.R., which is obviously heavily developed in a lot of places.

MYERS: Banda -- remember the Banda Aceh earthquake?

COOPER: Sure.

MYERS: That ruptured almost 600 miles. So that gives you an idea.

COOPER: Wow.

MYERS: This was only about 15 or so.

COOPER: And again, but it's right in Port-au-Prince, which is the capital. Some two million people out of a population of some 10 million in the country, and a lot of very flimsy structures indeed.

Sadly, Haiti, less than two hours from Miami, no stranger to disaster. Tom Foreman joins us now with kind of a crash course on the country: Haiti 101.

Tom, what should we know?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson.

First of all, know where it is. Because many people would not. You go past Florida down here. Cuba, Bahamas. Here's Jamaica over here. The Dominican Republic also on the other side of the island, and there's Haiti, of course.

And Chad was hinting at something there, Anderson, which really is that what we're talking about is layers of problems here. The first one really is the population itself: 9 plus million people, as you mentioned. And about half of them live in cities and/or towns, so they're more vulnerable to this sort of thing. They have about a 53 percent literacy rate, which gives you an idea of some of the other problems which you see as we look a little bit deeper into the geography of this area and why that matters. This is a place where the -- the earthquake actually hit. And you can see, and Anderson, you know from your experience. It's a very mountainous area and not very big. It's a little bit smaller than Maryland. Lots of mountains, lots of ridges, lots of valleys, which means a lot of people building places on sides of mountains where they can fall down into the valleys when things like this happen.

And it's not only earthquake prone but also, as you know, very prone to hurricanes and tropical storms and mudslides and all those things that come along with them, Anderson.

COOPER: Let me just stop you there. Because one of the things that really strikes you when you fly over D.R. and also over Haiti. You fly over D.R., and it's green in a lot of areas, especially the mountain areas.

As soon as you cross the border into Haiti, the mountains are literally just stripped of all vegetation, because folks have been for years cutting down trees in order to make firewood in order to make charcoal to heat their homes or to cook. And that's contributed to a lot of these problems when there's huge mudslides or hurricanes or an earthquake. There's nothing -- there's no vegetation to keep that mountain from just sliding right down.

FOREMAN: You are absolutely right. You take a look at this in these pictures. You get a sense of what you're talking about, Anderson. This is a country that has been through some very, very tough times, which brings us another part of the layers here that I was talking about that add to this problem.

If we fly over into Port-au-Prince, look at this. All of these people jammed into an area that was meant for maybe a quarter million people. Now they have 2 to 3 million living here, and that brings up the human layer of this catastrophe, the economic layer.

Look at this. Poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Eighty percent of the people below the poverty line. Fifty percent of the people are in abject poverty. As you mentioned earlier, a lot of people here living on less than $2 a day. That's a very, very tough way to live, even in the best of times. Obviously, now not the best of times, Anderson.

And look at the ocean of people. I wanted to point out. You mentioned Cite Soleil earlier when you were talking to Representative Waters. But this area here is to show people who may not be familiar with it. A huge, huge, huge area up here where they had immense problems.

And look at the numbers of people. This is an area, Anderson, that was not prepared to deal in many ways with daily life day in and out with the various problems they faced. And now they're facing this.

The last part I wanted to bring up in all this is, if you look at the persistent problems here. In 2008, they had four tropical storms come through and wipe things out here. For every four roads in this country, three of them are dirt roads. And of course, they've had a 200-year history of civil and political unrest, which makes it very, very hard for this country to deal with anything, Anderson. And as you know, and no doubt you will see, it will make it very hard for them to deal with this. They're going to have to have immense outside help.

COOPER: Yes. We're not even sure. I mean, as I said, we're trying to get there tonight. I'm not even sure if we're able to cross over into that border from the Dominican Republic. I'm not sure we'll be able to get to Port-au-Prince because I've heard a lot of reports about the roads being very difficult. It's about a two-hour drive from the border to -- to Port-au-Prince. So we'll see.

Tom, appreciate it.

We've got to take a quick break. Tom is going to take over the top of this next hour. Literally, running to the airport to get on a flight. Actually, Jessica is taking over, but Tom will continue the coverage, as well. I'm going to try to get on a flight down to the Dominican Republic, a late-night flight from 1 a.m. from New York and try to get more reporting on the ground, at least if I can. Get to Port-au-Prince tomorrow morning.

We're going to be back in a moment with more breaking news coverage of the massive earthquake in Haiti.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of the situation in Haiti, where as I said, we're getting some new pictures in, but I want to hand off our breaking news coverage to Jessica Yellin right now so I can head to the airport and try to get a flight down to Haiti. I hope to be reporting live from the ground tomorrow. Jessica will continue throughout this hour with the latest developments.

YELLIN: And we wish you safe travels, Anderson. Good trip.

All right. And to our viewers at home and around the world, we continue our breaking news on the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti today. It measured 7.0, and it's believed to be the largest and most powerful earthquake to have ever hit the Caribbean.

From eyewitness accounts, there is widespread devastation. Heavy damage is being reported in Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital. The president's palace has been damaged, along with many other buildings and homes. And a U.N. official tells us the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission outside Port-au-Prince has collapsed.

There are also reports of dead bodies and fears of mass casualties. And the A.P. tonight says two Americans are believed to be trapped in the rubble.

Joseph -- Raymond Joseph, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., told CNN, quote, "The only thing I can do now is pray and hope for the best."

The State Department has activated a disaster response plan and is expecting a serious loss of life.

President Obama also issued a statement, saying his thoughts and prayers go to those who have been affected.

And joining us now, also, we believe on the phone with us is Nan Bazar (ph). She is here. We have her on camera. Nan Bazar, the senior director for international disaster response for the Red Cross. She joins us now from Washington.

Nan, thank you for coming in, and start us off with the basics. How bad is this earthquake?