Haiti Earthquake: Race Against Time

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reports from Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday, Jan. 14.
CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reports from Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday, Jan. 14.

CBS News managing editor Katie Couric is in Port-au-Prince, heading up a CBS crew reporting on the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

As night falls in Haiti, danger and desperation grow by the hour. Bodies piling up everywhere could lead to an outbreak of disease. Gangs of looters roam the streets. And thousands upon thousands of Haitians have no home, no food and no water.

The Haitian Red Cross estimates as many as 50,000 have died - and it's run out of body bags. The State Department confirms one American death. President Obama addressed the people of Haiti directly today and announced $100 million dollars in U.S. assistance.

How to Help Victims

The immediate problem is getting aid into Haiti. There's a such a bottleneck at the airport that the FAA has stopped any more planes from coming here from the United States.

Port-Au-Prince airport resembled a United Nations meeting on a crowded tarmac Thursday. Rescue teams from Belgium, Columbian police, a Venezuelan air force C-130 unloading medical supplies, another C-130 from Brazil, a K-9 search and rescue team from Luxembourg, and the U.S. Military were assembled on the tarmac. As CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reports, an outpouring of supplies came from everywhere.

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The help must get to the 3 million Haitians who need it. Nearly every street is an obstacle course of debris and the dead. The roads have become morgues. Clean water is scarce. Makeshift hospitals are overwhelmed.

The destruction is so widespread that relief agencies must prioritize who gets help first.

Couric flew on a Coast Guard plane usually used for search and rescue. Today its mission is far different.

"We have the ability in this aircraft to send live pictures back to command centers," said the pilot, Lieutenant Tavis McEleny. "So they can get a real time picture of what's currently on the ground, and then we can direct resources to where it's most needed."

Complete Coverage: Devastation in Haiti

The images along with their GPS coordinates will direct relief on the ground.

But coordinating this massive effort is still a monumental challenge.

"My heart really goes out to these people and their families," Lt. McEleny said. "I can't imagine what I would be like to be surrounded by this much suffering."

Meanwhile the Fairfax, Virginia Urban Search and Rescue is here along with teams from L.A. and Miami. Even the Chinese are lending a hand. Their first job? The United Nations headquarters where as many as 100 people are trapped and feared dead. After a slow painstaking search, a man was rescued today.

For 40 hours, Tarmo Joveer, a U.N. security specialist from Estonia was trapped in what was once his office. He emerged exhausted but triumphant.

There were eerie reminders today from the Citigroup building that collapsed. Paperwork was seen today amid the rubble. Tuesday before 4:53 pm, it was just another day at the office.

While untrained Port-Au-Prince residents were able to rescue two people overnight underneath the building. A second team from Fairfax came hoping to rescue more people.

"An incredible amount of people will probably lose their lives here," said Sam Gray of the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue. "Honestly, the hardest part is to know how many people aren't going to be able to be saved."

Relief workers say the first 72 hours after a disaster are critical to saving lives. That window is quickly closing as Haiti moves from shock to desperation.