The Red Cross federation says it estimates there have been 45,000-50,000 deaths in the Haitian earthquake.
Spokesman Jean-Luc Martinage says the Haitian Red Cross came up with the estimate based on information from a wide network of volunteers across the quake-stricken capital of Port-au-Prince.
Martinage says it also is a number that government ministers have been using.
He said Thursday that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cross Societies has yet to determine the actual number of deaths.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital Wednesday after a powerful earthquake flattened the president's palace, the cathedral, hospitals, schools, the main prison and whole neighborhoods. Officials feared thousands - perhaps more than 100,000 - may have perished but there was no firm count.
Death was everywhere in Port-au-Prince. Bodies of tiny children were piled next to schools. Corpses of women lay on the street with stunned expressions frozen on their faces as flies began to gather. Bodies of men were covered with plastic tarps or cotton sheets.
President Rene Preval said he believes thousands were killed in Tuesday afternoon's magnitude-7.0 quake, and the scope of the destruction prompted other officials to give even higher estimates. Leading Sen. Youri Latortue told The Associated Press that 500,000 could be dead, although he acknowledged that nobody really knows.
"Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed," Preval told the Miami Herald. "There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them."
Even the main prison in the capital fell down, "and there are reports of escaped inmates," U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva.
The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission was missing and the Roman Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince was dead.
"The cathedral, the archbishop's office, all the big churches, the seminaries have been reduced to rubble," Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the apostolic envoy to Haiti, told the Vatican news agency FIDES.
The parking lot of the Hotel Villa Creole was a triage center. People sat with injuries and growing infections by the side of rubble-strewn roads, hoping that doctors and aid would come.
The international Red Cross said a third of Haiti's 9 million people may need emergency aid and that it would take a day or two for a clear picture of the damage to emerge.
At first light Wednesday, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter evacuated four critically injured U.S. Embassy staff to the hospital on the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the military has been detaining suspected terrorists.
President Barack Obama promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort, adding that the U.S. commitment to its hemispheric neighbor will be unwavering.
"We have to be there for them in their hour of need," Obama said.
Haiti's president says he believes thousands of people are dead in the aftermath of yesterday afternoon's powerful earthquake.
President Rene Preval says schools and hospitals have collapsed -- along with parliament and the government tax office.
He tells the Miami Herald, "There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them."
Among the dead is the Roman Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince. The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti is among the missing.
Aftershocks are still rattling the capital, as people pull bodies from collapsed homes, covering them with sheets by the side of the road.
The International Red Cross and other aid groups are announcing plans for major relief efforts. It says a third of Haiti's 9 million people may need emergency aid. The United Nations says Port-au-Prince's main airport is "fully operational" and open to relief flights.
President Barack Obama promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort by the United States.
A young American aide worker -- trapped for about 10 hours under the rubble of her mission house that was destroyed in Haiti's earthquake -- has been rescued by her husband.
Frank Thorp tells CBS's "The Early Show" that he drove 100 miles to Port-au-Prince once he learned of the quake, and dug for over an hour to free his wife, Jillian, and her co-worker Charles Dietsch. He says the two were trapped under about a foot of concrete.
He says he saw his wife's hand from under the rubble and heard her tell him to keep it together and just get her out. He describes it as terrifying.
Emily Smack, the executive director of Haitian Ministries for the Diocese of Norwich, Conn., says a security guard at the mission house is still missing.
The 7.0-magnitude tremor caused massive destruction in the Haitian capital.
The International Federation of the Red Cross estimates that up to 3 million people have been affected by a powerful earthquake that caused massive destruction in the Haitian capital.
Spokesman Paul Conneally says the fact that the quake occurred very close to Port-au-Prince was "not a good indicator"
He says Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the northern hemisphere and is ill-prepared to handle a major disaster
Conneally told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it would take 24-48 hours before a clear picture emerges of the scale of the destruction.
Meanwhile, international aid groups including the Red Cross are gearing up for a major relief effort in Haiti focused on rescuing survivors and setting up field hospitals for the wounded.
Everything from simple shacks to the National Palace have collapsed. Tens of thousands have lost their homes in a country where building standards are almost nonexistent.
Many gravely injured people sit in the streets, pleading for doctors. At a wrecked hospital, people screamed for help. Thousands gathered in public squares late into the night, singing hymns and weeping.
The scope of the disaster remains unclear, and even a rough estimate of the number of casualties is impossible yet. Among the missing are U.N. personnel. The U.S. is rushing in search and rescue teams and other aid.
The 7.0 quake struck late Tuesday afternoon.
There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, but an analyst at the US Geological Survey said there could be substantial damage and casualties. Powerful aftershocks were felt in the first hour.
The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was centered about 10 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, the USGS said. It had a depth of 5 miles.
An Associated Press videographer saw the wrecked hospital in Petionville, near Port-au-Prince, and a US government official reported seeing houses that had tumbled into a ravine.
No further details on any casualties or other damage were immediately available.
Don Blakeman, an analyst at the US Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, said such a strong quake carried the potential for widespread damage.
"I think we are going to see substantial damage and casualties," he said.
Blakeman said Haiti had already been hit by many aftershocks - the two largest registering magnitude 5.9 and 5.5.
"We expect more aftershocks because this is a large, shallow earthquake," he said.
The quake was felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola. Some residents in the capital of Santo Domingo fled their homes.
Another analyst, Dale Grant, said this was the "largest quake recorded in this area." He said the last strong quake was a magnitude-6.7 temblor in 1984.
"Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken," said Henry Bahn, a US Department of Agriculture official visiting Haiti. "The sky is just grey with dust."
Bahn said he was walking to his hotel room when the ground began to shake.
"I just held on and bounced across the wall," he said. "I just hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance."
Bahn said there were rocks strewn all over the place and he saw a ravine where several homes had been built. "It's just full of collapsed walls and rubble and barbed wire," he said.
Felix Augustin, Haiti's consul general in New York, said he was concerned about everyone in Haiti, including his relatives.
"Communication is absolutely impossible," he said. "I've been trying to call my ministry and I cannot get through … It's mind-boggling."