Haiti Quake Devastation, Hope Spreads Online

Social networking sites exploded on the frontlines after Haiti's quake.

ByABC News via logo
January 13, 2010, 8:13 AM

Jan. 13, 2010 — -- The first pictures out of Haiti minutes after Wednesday's catastrophic earthquake were poorly lighted, blurry and out of focus. But their message of devastation and heartbreak could not be clearer.

One showed a man, almost out of frame, screaming at nothing and no one in particular. In another, a woman covered in dust reached desperately toward the camera.

Just as the initial images from Haiti did not come from professional photographers, the first impressions from eyewitnesses did not come from professional journalists. Instead, each came from citizen-reporters or, more accurately, people who watched the world around them literally crumble and broadcast it on social networking sites.

When the phone lines went down in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, people in the midst of chaos turned to Web sites such as Twitter and Facebook to share their photographs or stories.

The collective tweet recalls similar responses during last year's California fires, Hudson River plane landing and Iranian elections fallout.

Click here to see more pictures from the quake's aftermath.

Haitian radio host Carel Pedre was one of the first to snap photos of the quake's aftermath and post them to his Facebook page.

"It's sad, bad," Pedre said. "We're devastated."

Within minutes, Facebook posts and Tweets came in from around the world, some offering prayers, others desperately seeking information about loved ones.

Carline Francois tweeted, "If anyone has news on Route de Frere, please post. I can't reach my family."