The body count in Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake could run to tens of thousands, the country’s president said yesterday, a day after the quake demolished schools, hospitals, houses and hillside shanties across the impoverished capital.


Asked by a CNN reporter how many people had died, President Rene Preval replied, “I don’t know,” adding “up to now, I heard 50,000 ... 30,000.” But he did not say where these estimates came from, and others, including Haiti’s prime minister placed the number of dead in the “hundreds of thousands.”


Haitians wandered broken streets in a daze, or tried to rescue people from rubble. One young man yelled at reporters in English: “Too many people are dying. We need international help ... no emergency, no food, no phone, no water, no nothing.”


A five-story U.N. building was destroyed. Several bodies were pulled from the wreckage of the U.N. building and more than 100 staff members were missing, a spokesman said. The U.N. said at least 14 members of its 9,000-strong peacekeeping mission had been killed.


Preval called the damage “unimaginable” and described stepping over dead bodies and hearing the cries of those trapped in the collapsed Parliament building.