In France, the country that once ruled the Caribbean island, thousands of Haitians received the news with shock and fear.
At Orly airport in Paris, those expecting friends and relatives on a flight from Port au Prince were frustrated by the lack of information, as communication links with Haiti crumbled.
One woman said: “I spoke to my husband at 4pm. He told me he was at the airport, going through check-in. But after that all lines were cut.”
“My sister had an injured hand – I don’t know any more. She protected herself with her coat, but the rest, I don’t know,” said another.
There was anxiety written all over the faces of those living in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, a district the Haitian community have made home.
There are few who have not been touched by the disaster.
One said: “I have brothers and sisters and friends there, so yes we’re worried, for all my family. We’re hoping for a little more reassuring news.”
Another added: “I had someone on the phone straightaway, and got some information from her. She told me there was complete devastation where she was. She was in the street, but after that, still no news of the others.”
But until communications links with Haiti are working again, there’s little more these people can do than wait and worry.