The bodies of children lay in piles next to the ruins of their collapsed school while people, faces covered in dust and the blood of open wounds, roamed the streets. Frantic doctors wrapped heads and stitched up sliced limbs in a hotel parking lot.
And to add to the devastation, rain is coming, according to Haitian journalist Frederic Dupoux, who has chronicled the quake's aftermath via Twitter.
Nearly 30 hours after the quake struck, help is finally on the way. The first cargo planes with food, water, medical supplies, shelter and sniffer dogs are headed to the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation after the magnitude 7 quake flattened much of the capital of more than 2 million people.
The U.S. military said it plans to send a cargo ship to aid in relief efforts, though it remains unclear whether Port-au-Prince's port is too damaged to receive it. Luminaries like singer Wyclef Jean and the Rev. Al Sharpton have declared their intentions to visit Haiti by week's end.
One sign of the bleakness in Port-au-Prince came from a Dupoux tweet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday: "I smell chicken in the streets. That's good sign, this morning I couldn't find anything eat."
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said 16 United Nations personnel are confirmed dead, with 100 to 150 UN workers still unaccounted-for, including the mission chief and his deputy. Eleven Brazilian peacekeepers and five international police officers - three from Jordan and one each from Chad and Argentina - were killed in the "horrendous" quake, Ban said.
CNN and the Los Angeles Times each reported horrible scenes of people lining up corpses in rows along major streets as buildings that remain standing are converted to makeshift hospitals in the nation's capital, Port-au-Prince.
Reports mirror those from the deadly December 2004, South Asian tsunami: Haiti's prime minister estimated 100,000 dead; buildings housing the Parliament, major hospitals and local United Nations headquarters are flattened; and the nation's first lady said she's "stepping over dead bodies." National Police Chief Mario Anderson told CNN that more than 1,000 prisoners escaped when damage to the National Penitentiary allowed them to flee.
Haiti's president, René Préval, told The Miami Herald that Parliament, the tax office, schools and hospitals all collapsed in the Tuesday afternoon quake, which registered a 7.0 on the Richter scale. Préval told CNN that he has no place to sleep Wednesday night.
Asked what he now considered the biggest risk to his country, Préval told the Herald it was "that the buildings will continue to collapse . . . and for an epidemic."
Préval's wife told the paper that the dead are everywhere.
"This is a catastrophe," first lady Elisabeth Préval told the Herald. "I'm stepping over dead bodies. A lot of people are buried under buildings. The general hospital has collapsed. We need support. We need help. We need engineers."
The United Nation's secretary-general urged the international community "to come to Haiti's aid in this hour of need" and announced that the U.N. would provide $10 million for relief from its emergency fund, according to The Associated Press.
"This is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity we all share," Obama said. "With just a few hundred miles of ocean between us, Haitians are our neighbors in the Americas and here at home. We have to be with them in their hour of need."
Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of U.S. Southern Command, said Wednesday that one of the U.S. Navy's large amphibious ships will likely head to Haiti with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard. Fraser said other U.S. military forces are on alert, including a brigade, which includes about 3,500 troops, The Associated Press said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton canceled a planned trip to Papua, New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia to return to Washington and assist disaster response. The AP said U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates scrapped a scheduled trip to Australia so that he could deal with the crisis in Haiti. Former President Bill Clinton took to CNN to raise money to help relief squads.
Haiti's prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, told CNN that "well over 100,000" people may be dead in the quake.
"We have very large slums in Haiti, there are really dense slums, where you can find sometimes seven to eight people in the same houses," Bellerive said. "And when I entered, I didn't see any houses. They were all destroyed and we don't see people leaving those places."
The quake struck at 4:53 p.m. on Tuesday, and was centered 10 miles west of the nation's capital of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Geological Survey said. USGS geophysicist Kristin Marano called it the strongest earthquake since 1770 in what is now Haiti.
Port-au-Prince is a teeming city of about 3 million people, many of whom live in shantytowns or buildings that have been flattened by the quake. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and the vast majority of its residents are desperately poor.
For the Haitian community in New York and on Long Island, the devastating news of the past 30 hours has been the latest in a string of heartbreaks. Three major hurricanes hit the nation, which shares an island with the Dominican Republican, in 2008 alone.
Fifteen times since 2001 the U.S. Agency for International Development sent money to Haiti for disaster relief.
More than 100,000 people of Haitian descent live in New York City, with another 35,000 on Long Island. Churches in Brentwood and Huntington Station held Creole-language services Wednesday night for those with friends or family stranded in Haiti.
The U.S. Embassy had no confirmed reports of deaths among the estimated 40,000 to 45,000 Americans who live in Haiti, but many were struggling to find a way out of the country, the AP reported.
Among those trapped inside the Parliament building but still alive was the president of the Haitian Senate, Kelly Bastien. The body of the Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Joseph Serge Miot, 63, was found in the ruins of his office, The AP reported. The head of the UN peacekeeping mission also is missing, UN humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told the AP.
Felix Augustin, Haiti's consul general to the UN, said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the capital's main international airport is open and that JetBlue has agreed to import aid workers and supplies. He urged anyone coming to Haiti to help by bringing their own water and dry food.
In a Haitian church in Brooklyn, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged people to donate to the Red Cross or other relief agencies.
>> VIDEOS: Latest videos from Haiti and on LI
HOW TO HELP
* You can help immediately by texting "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts.
* Wyclef Jean, a rapper and hip-hop artist from Haiti, urged people to text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 toward earthquake relief. Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement inspiring change in Haiti through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment, according to its Web site.
* The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747. The Red Cross has also set up a Web site to help family members find and contact relatives.
Other Web sites accepting donations include: