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Haiti Earthquake: Breaking News, Updates (VIDEO)

Huffington Post   First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 04:10 PM ET

Updates from Haiti below -- Follow the latest breaking news via our Haiti Twitter list -- See the latest images here -- Find out how you can help here.

Also note that in order to keep page loading smoothly we've archived earlier posts, which you can access by scrolling to the bottom and clicking on the respective page numbers.

Please email tips, thoughts, information, complaints to me here.

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Report on ongoing relief efforts

The State Department tweets that Americans have now donated more than $9 million for Haiti relief via text message.

"It's shattered any record that we've seen with mobile giving before," the Red Cross's social media manager told CNN. CNN said the Red Cross was stunned by the level of digital fundraising. The current figure more is more than double the $4 million that was donated to all charities by text message during 2009, the Red Cross said.

See how much major corporations are donating here.

Wireless companies are responding to the unprecedented number of text message donations by expediting them to ensure they reach their destination much faster than usual, according to the New York Times' Bits blog. Typically it can take weeks, even months, for such donations to reach the intended aid organization, as CNN noted today. But as a Verizon spokesman told the Times:

"We are bypassing our normal financing accounting and checks and balances. We're doing it because the humanitarian need is immediate."

Verizon says it has so far transmitted $3 million in aid to the American Red Cross; Sprint reported having transmitted $1.2 million to a variety of charities.

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7:30 PM ET: Fear that time is running out -- The latest from the AP paints an increasingly desperate picture:

Pushed to the far edge of desperation, earthquake-ravaged Haitians dumped decaying bodies into mass graves and begged for water and food Friday amid fear that time is running out to avoid chaos and to rescue anyone still alive in the wreckage.

The U.S. military brought some relief, taking control of the airport, helping coordinate flights bringing in aid and evacuating foreigners and the injured. Medical teams, meanwhile, set up makeshift hospitals, workers started to clear the streets of corpses and water was being distributed in pockets of the city.

But the task was enormous.

Aid workers and authorities warned that unless they can quickly get aid to the people, Port-au-Prince will degenerate into lawlessness.

7:15 PM ET: U.S. General says world has an "opportunity" in Haiti

6:35 PM ET: Photos of bodies being pulled in the streets -- There have been a good number of truly haunting images coming out of Haiti from the many photographers doing essential journalism down there (Damon Winter's on front of the New York Times this morning was particularly striking.) Here's a slideshow from TIME that provides a good overview of the events of the last few days.

6:30 PM ET: Clinton heading to Haiti Saturday -- From the AP:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she is heading to Haiti to inspect the damage from this week's devastating earthquake firsthand.

Clinton will travel with USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah Saturday. She plans to meet with President Rene Preval and other Haitian officials.

She says she will inspect U.S. relief efforts. Clinton says she wants to convey to the Haitian people "our long term, unwavering support, solidarity and sympathies."

6:25 PM ET: U.S. could take larger security role in Haiti -- From the AP:

The top U.S. military officer is leaving open the possibility of a growing security role for U.S. forces if desperation turns to violence in Haiti, a risky undertaking in a country that was chaotic even before this week's devastating earthquake.

U.S. forces sent to Haiti to help relief efforts are operating under what two military officials said Friday is an adaptation of standard military rules of engagement that allows for self-defense even though the Pentagon does not expect a need for it. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to characterize the confidential rules.

6:20 PM ET: Search for relief grows more desperate -- From the AP:

Pockets of looting flared across the capital. Small bands of young men and teenagers with machetes roaming downtown streets helped themselves to whatever they could find in wrecked homes.

"They are scavenging everything. What can you do?" said Michel Legros, 53, as he waited for help to search for seven relatives buried in his collapsed house. A Russian search-and-rescue team said the general insecurity was forcing them to suspend their efforts after nightfall.

"The situation in the city is very difficult and tense," said team chief Salavat Mingaliyev, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.

5:35 PM ET: Obama grants Temporary Protected Status to Haitians The Obama administration, which earlier this week imposed a temporary halt on deportations for Haitian immigrants with expulsion orders, has now granted them Temporary Protected Status, which will allow them to stay and work in the country for 18 months.

5:15 PM ET: Relief work in high gear -- The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at how relief groups are working around the clock to reach victims of the earthquake:

Teams from across the world have been arriving in Haiti since the first hours after the quake. Many have not gotten any more than a few minutes of sleep, if any. The more than 20 countries here - in addition to the UN, World Bank, and numerous private groups - have already pledged aid to Haiti. Brazil is dispatching aircraft with food and water, Cuba has sent 30 doctors, and Israel dispatched a rescue staff of 240. At the Port-au-Prince airport, military planes from Venezuela and Colombia had landed, bringing in supplies.

4:45 PM ET: Should Haitians be given special status due to the earthquake? TIME's Carmen Gentile asks the question:

Unlike undocumented immigrants from similarly troubled countries, those from the island nation detained by U.S. immigration officials have quickly been ordered to be deported back. Now, the catastrophe may lead the Obama Administration to reconsider the controversial policy. Indeed, soon after the earthquake, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano imposed a temporary halt to deportations, allowing 30,000 Haitians with expulsion orders to remain in the U.S.

Until the President decides otherwise, however, the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that grants a semblance of asylum to migrants from six countries will still exclude those from Haiti.

4:30 PM ET: Missing NYU students found -- We wrote yesterday about two NYU students who were said to be missing following the earthquake. Happy to report that they were both found safe today.

As the Washington Post mentioned earlier today, Twitter users are using the hashtag #rescuemehaiti in an attempt to help direct rescue teams to those who are trapped or in need of urgent assistance.

USAforHaiti RT @clarlune: RT @yveno76: URGENT Rescue team needed at lycee Anacaona Leogane students are still trapped.. Please RT... #rescuemehaiti

4:20 PM ET: American doctor rescued -- A 65-year-old American doctor from New Jersey who was trapped in Port-au-Prince's Hotel Montana has been rescued after 50 hours buried in the rubble. Sarla Chand, who is from Teaneck, was freed by French firefighters. CBS has a report:

3:55 PM ET: Miracle amid the rubble -- The New York Daily News has a moving story about a four-year-old boy who was rescued three days after being buried alive inside his home.

3:45 PM ET: France asks creditors to cancel debt -- From the AP:

France on Friday urged Haiti's creditors to speed efforts to cancel the impoverished Caribbean nation's debt, a stranglehold that began two centuries ago when Napoleon demanded reparations for the island's independence.

In 1825, France demanded 150 million francs in gold as reparations for lands lost by former slave owners. Haiti took massive loans from American, German and French banks at exorbitant rates of interest to pay back France.

3:30 PM ET: Trapped woman rescued -- Raw video of a woman being pulled from the rubble at a collapsed shopping center by a search and rescue team from Iceland yesterday.

3:20 PM ET: Streets full of bodies -- AP has aerial footage of the streets of Haiti, where bodies can be seen lying everywhere.

Some more aerial footage, this time surveying the destruction as of today:

3:00 PM ET: Americans desperate to leave Haiti -- AP has footage of a tense scene at the airport where people are trying to get out of Haiti. U.S. citizens were frantically waiving their passports as U.S. soldiers who were trying to sort out people to be evacuated.

2:30 PM ET: Pelosi says earthquake may give Haiti "fresh start" -- Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today she hopes US aid to the country would help it achieve a "new, fresh start," while acknowledging that it was a "very sad time":

"From my own experience with earthquakes, being from San Francisco, I think that this can be an opportunity for a real boom economy in Haiti," Pelosi said.

2:20 PM ET: Obama says "we will do what it takes"

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11:30 AM ET: Update on relief efforts -- A round-up of reports:

--A White House spokesman announced that as of this morning Americans have donated more than $8 million for Haiti relief via text message. The donation system, set up by the Red Cross and the State Department, allows people to donate $10 at a time by texting HAITI to 90999. For more information on how you can help, visit HuffPost's Impact page.

--UN says 6,000 pounds of food is to be distributed, and that earlier reports of looting at its warehouse were overblown

--Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says 9,000 - 10,000 US troops will be in Haiti by Monday to help distribute aid.

--U.N. aid organizations plan to launch an emergency appeal to raise $550 million, a spokeswoman said today.

--Comcast says it will donate $1 million to disaster relief.

--Madonna announced that she has donated $250,000 for disaster relief, and is asking others to match her.

11:00 AM ET: Why it's so hard to get relief into Haiti -- Simply landing at the airport is a major logistical challenge, the AP says:

U.S. military air traffic controllers are scrambling to keep earthquake aid flowing into the Haitian capital without the use of a control tower or radar, and amid struggles over fuel, tarmac space and even staircases to access planes.

With all the hurdles facing rescue and relief efforts in this shattered city, it appears the first to overcome are at its major entry point for supplies. U.S. federal officials halted nonmilitary flights for eight hours Thursday at the request of the Haitian government, leaving dozens of planes circling.

10:55 AM ET: U.S. troops arriving -- AP has some raw video of US troops arriving in Haiti this morning, as well as footage of them helping those who are injured.

10:50 AM ET: "We can all do something" -- First Lady Michelle Obama releases a public service announcement telling people what they can do to help.

10:45 AM ET: Donations on track to break record -- USA Today reports that the level of giving to Haiti is on course to exceed the private donations made in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami in Asia. After Katrina, Americans gave a total of $6.47 billion in private donations.

10:30 AM ET: Where will all the money go? -- AP takes a look at the difficulties in channeling relief money to Haiti:

Haiti has received billions of dollars in taxpayer and private aid from the United States and others, yet is so poor that few homes had safe drinking water, sewage disposal or electricity even before the earthquake. With sympathetic donors around the world sending money, making sure that aid is spent properly will be a challenge.

Corruption, theft and other crime and Haiti's sheer shortage of fundamentals -- reliable roads, telephone and power lines and a sound financial system -- add to the difficulty as foreign governments and charities try not only to help Haiti recover from the disaster but pull itself out of abject poverty.

It is one of the poorest places on Earth. Most basic public services are lacking, people typically live on less than $2 a day, nearly half the population is illiterate and the government has a history of instability. The public has little opportunity to be sure that aid to the government is used honestly and well. Nor is following the money easy for donors, including the United States, 700 miles away and one of the country's biggest helpers.

10:15 AM ET: $8 million for Haiti relief -- A White House spokesman announced that as of this morning Americans have donated more than $8 million for Haiti relief via text message. The donation system, set up by the Red Cross and the State department, allows people to donate $10 at a time by texting HAITI to 90999. For more information on how you can help, visit HuffPost's Impact page.

10:00 AM ET: Burying the dead -- As mentioned last night, the Miami Herald filed a heartbreaking report about the overwhelming scene at the Port-au-Prince morgue. According to Haitian President Rene Preval, the government has managed to remove around 7,000 corpses from the streets and morgues in order to bury them in mass graves.

Here's a report from Reuters about the bodies piled up in the streets. The narrator compares the scene to that of a war zone.

9:30 AM ET: Reporters reflect on what's gone on -- Jonathan Katz, an AP correspondent in Port-au-Prince, has written a moving reflection on the last few days in Haiti and how they've redefined the country's relationship to tragedy. Here's an excerpt:

The city is a ruin. Fuel, food and water are running in short supply. Mothers have lost their children. Children have lost their families. Entire neighborhoods are sleeping in the streets. People walk miles up and down mountains, carrying everything they own, with no real place to go.

But here is what is new: You have perhaps seen the pictures of the national palace smashed into a lurching heap over the grassy Champs de Mars. Or of the collapsed twin spires of the Notre Dame d'Haiti cathedral complex, which claimed the life of the archbishop. Or of the collapsed parliament where the senate president remained trapped Wednesday.

Imagine if nearly all the institutions in your life -- flawed, but still the only ones -- disappeared, all at once.

In a life where the next meal is uncertain, where the next rain may claim your home, where the next election may happen or not -- where that is the normal. Think of having those institutions smashed all around you.

At the very moment when you have lost someone, perhaps many people, you loved.

In the video below, another AP reporter, Rich Matthews, talks about how you "can't escape the death" in Haiti. He says he was unprepared for the chaotic scene he encountered when he landed at the airport. The smell from the dead bodies is so bad that you can taste it, Matthews says: "Today, I tasted death."

9:20 AM ET: Aftershocks -- Port-au-Prince was rocked by a strong aftershock at around 5:00 AM ET this morning, Reuters reports. A video report from the AP:

8:50 AM ET: The ongoing struggle to deliver aid -- Nearly every news account of the situation in Haiti this morning has focused on the difficulty of the relief effort. "Haitian Rescue Stymied Amid Chaos," the Wall Street Journal writes; "Tensions Mount in Devastated Capital as Aid Starts to Reach Haiti," is the headline leading the New York Times' website. As the AP wrote this morning: "More and more Friday, the focus fell on the daunting challenge of getting food and water to millions of survivors."

Among the problems listed by the Journal: "A badly damaged seaport, a congested one-runway airport, a shattered communications system and difficulty coordinating the aid have delayed relief efforts." A spokesman for the UN Mission in Haiti told the AP that Haitians are beginning to run out of patience. "Unfortunately, they're slowly getting more angry and impatient," the spokesman said. "I fear, we're all aware that the situation is getting more tense as the poorest people who need so much are waiting for deliveries. I think tempers might be frayed."

As mentioned earlier, looters have broke into the UN's food warehouse Haiti. And, according to the Times, the Haitian National Police force has all but disappeared.

8:45 AM ET: Aristide looking to return -- The former president, currently exiled in Africa, says he's ready to head to Haiti:

In a rare public appearance, Aristide told reporters at a hotel next to Johannesburg's airport that he and his family are ready to return to Haiti to help with the catastrophe. He said friends, whom he did not name, are willing to provide a plane to fly him to Haiti with medical supplies and other emergency equipment.

"As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, share in their suffering, help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity," said Aristide, his wife Mildred next to him, eyes downcast, twisting a handkerchief.

8:40 AM ET: US military personnel arrive -- This morning's update:

More than 300 troops of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division arrived at the Port au Prince airport overnight and others have arrived in nearby waters on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen told ABC's "Good Morning America."

"We have much more support on the way. Our priority is getting relief out to the needy people," he said.

About 5,500 U.S. soldiers and Marines are expected to be in Haiti by Monday.

8:30 AM ET: Food warehouse looted -- From the AP:

Looters have broken into U.N. food warehouses in Haiti's crumbled capital, an official said Friday, as security and logistical challenges mounted for groups trying to feed at least 2 million people reeling from a devastating earthquake.

The U.N. World Food Program had 15,000 tons of food aid in Haiti prior to Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake, stocks designed for hurricane relief. Spokeswoman Emilia Casella said local partners reported that the U.N. warehouse in Port-au-Prince's Cite Soleil neighborhood was looted but the agency did not know how much aid was stolen or exactly when it was taken.