Quake a "Catastrophe of Major Proportions"

Raymond Alcide Joseph haiti

CBS News anchor Katie Couric spoke with Raymond Alcide Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the United States about a magnitude 7 earthquake that hit 10 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince - perhaps the strongest earthquake ever to hit the region.

Couric: What are you hearing about what has happened in Haiti from residents there?

Joseph: I was able to reach the secretary general to the presidency Mr. Fritz Longchamp, the only official I was able to contact. And he told me he was driving his car east from Port-au-Prince to a suburb east of the capital and buildings started to collapse on both sides of the streets so he had to park his car and start walking. And it was just at that instant that I found him. He said it is a "catastrophe of major proportions." That's his own words. And he told me he was not able to reach any official, not the president nor anyone. And he was walking to his place not knowing what was awaiting him, not knowing whether he could cross the bridge to get to his place. So, you know, it's hard reading.

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Couric: Mr. Ambassador, we've been hearing reports that a hospital collapsed, that people are crying out under that collapsed structure. Have you heard anything along those lines?

Joseph: I spoke with somebody from World Vision while I was on the air on CNN and he was saying there was wailing, crying all over, dust rising up all over the place. So he also said that's all we can say because nobody can count the dead yesterday. But he said it's going to be a real catastrophe.

Couric: President Obama, Mr. Ambassador, issued a statement and said "my thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake, we're closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti." What kind of help and support might you need from the United States and other nations?

Joseph: You know, in the past, the United States came to our help. In 2008 we had four hurricanes that hit in a matter of three weeks and the United States had dispatched the U.S.S. "Comfort" to Haitian waters. Hospital beds aboard the "Comfort." And the southern command which is the U.S. military in Florida came to Haiti's support. Now I suppose the same thing can be done. I'm quite sure we will need everything. Somebody has just called me and talked to one of my colleagues to say they found out that the White House in Haiti, which you call the palace, is damaged. Also, the equivalent of the tax office, you know, I.R.S., is damaged. And there are some shantytowns around Port-au-Prince, around the hills, they have collapsed like cards.

Couric: Well, U.S. Ambassador Raymond Alcide Joseph, thank you for talking with us and updating us on this terrible situation in your country. We so appreciate it.

Joseph: Thank you very much for your concern and your help and please tell the world Haiti needs them right now.

Complete Coverage:

Major Quake Hits Haiti; Many Deaths Feared
Quake a "Catastrophe of Major Proportions"
Watch: Haiti Ambassador on Disaster
Haiti Earthquake Victim Describes Scene
Obama: U.S. Stands Ready to Help Haiti
USGS: Summary of Haiti Quake's Danger Level
Haitian Earthquake Photos
U.N. Headquarters Damaged in Haiti
Relief Agencies Ready Haiti Preparations