People pulled bodies from collapsed homes, covering them with sheets by the side of the road. Passers-by lifted the sheets to see if loved ones were underneath. Outside a crumbled building, the bodies of five children and three adults lay in a pile.
The prominent died along with the poor: the body of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, 63, was found in the ruins of his office, said the Rev. Pierre Le Beller of the Saint Jacques Missionary Center in Landivisiau, France. He told The Associated Press by telephone that fellow missionaries in Haiti had told him they found Miot's body.
Preval told the Herald that Haiti's Senate president was among those trapped alive inside the Parliament building. Much of the National Palace pancaked on itself.
The international Red Cross and other aid groups announced plans for major relief operations in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.
Many will have to help their own staff as well as stricken Haitians. Taiwan said its embassy was destroyed and the ambassador hospitalized. Spain said its embassy was badly damaged and France said its embassy also suffered damage.
Tens of thousands of people lost their homes as buildings that were flimsy and dangerous even under normal conditions collapsed. Nobody offered an estimate of the dead, but the numbers were clearly enormous.
"The hospitals cannot handle all these victims," said Dr. Louis-Gerard Gilles.
Medical experts say disasters such as an earthquake generally do not lead to new outbreaks of infectious diseases, but they do tend to worsen existing health problems.
Haiti's quake refugees likely will face an increased risk of dengue fever, malaria and measles — problems that plagued the impoverished country before, said Kimberley Shoaf, associate director of the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters.
Some of the biggest immediate health threats include respiratory disease from inhaling dust from collapsed buildings and diarrhea from drinking contaminated water.