Haiti Devastated


As toll continues to rise, wreckage hinders efforts to reach survivors

US President Obama promised $100 million for the relief effort in Haiti on Thursday morning, vowing that the United States would stand with the impoverished nation as it counted what could be tens of thousands of dead and grappled with the devastation of the Tuesday earthquake.

In an emotional address from the White House Diplomatic Reception room, Obama promised that amount was only a first installment and that financial assistance would increase over the coming year. "I want to speak directly to the people of Haiti," Obama said. "You will not be forsaken, you will not be forgotten," he said. "In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you."

While Obama said that his first priority was to ensure the safety of Americans in Haiti, his address Thursday appeared intended to provide some measure of solace for Haitians. "It's important that everyone in Haiti understands this," Obama said. "More American search and rescue teams are coming. More food, more water."

Within Haiti and beyond, the driving urgency of the last 36 hours was only growing.

The main morgue in Port-au-Prince was completely full, and hundreds of bodies were piled up outside and abandoned. The dead included some people who had been waiting on the grounds of an adjacent hospital in vain attempts to get treatment. When they died, their bodies were simply dragged to the morgue.

Workers from a couple of police pickup trucks were busy picking up corpses. The Haitian Red Cross offered a cautious and rough estimate of the possible death toll. "No one knows with precision, no one can confirm a figure, Victor Jackson, an assistant national coordinator with Haiti's Red Cross, said. "Our organisation thinks between 45,000 and 50,000 people have died."

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