The international Red Cross fears that as many as 50,000 people have died following the devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince -- a disaster that has commanded the world's attention and left aid agencies scrambling to give relief to people in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.

Across Haiti, power was out and the widespread destruction left the country virtually without a functioning government.

The Red Cross estimates that about three million people in the country require emergency help, but logistical issues have so far snared the quick delivery of much-needed supplies.

It's expected that hundreds and perhaps thousands of people are trapped under rubble, with relatives clawing through collapsed buildings in search of loved ones.

"People have been almost fighting for water," aid worker Fevil Dubien told The Associated Press as he handed out bottles in Port-au-Prince, the nation's shattered capital.

Meanwhile, hundreds of dead bodies have been left out in the open, posing yet another health risk as daytime temperatures were expected to soar above 30 degrees Celsius on Friday.

All over the sprawling city, people walked looking for food, water and help; some setting up impromptu camps and scavenging supplies from collapsed buildings.

"The communications have been really hard," said Oxfam aid worker Louis Belanger, in an interview with CTV News Channel.

"This has put a lot of pressure on us, just in terms of logistical co-ordination and talking to each other."

"It's not a rosy picture at all in the next 48 hours," he added, speaking from the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

Recent developments

  • More than $200 million in donations pledged to Haiti
  • Up to 50,000 dead after quake: Red Cross
  • U.S. restricts airspace over Port-au-Prince
  • Canadian emergency aid arrives in the country

Meanwhile, spokesperson Jean-Luc Martinage said the Haitian Red Cross formed its estimate based on information from a wide network of volunteers across the quake-stricken capital, where hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless.

The estimate came two days after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the country on Tuesday.

Relief efforts

Planes carrying teams from China, France, Spain and the United States had arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport -- which was secured by U.S. personnel -- to bring tons of water, food, medicine and other needed supplies to quake survivors.

CTV's Tom Clark reported that the U.S. military has restricted the airspace over Port-au-Prince, because there are so many planes trying to reach the area. The airport has been stretched to the limit.

Many aid workers and journalists, including Clark, are waiting in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, hoping to enter Haiti.

"This is the gathering point for anyone who wants entry," he told CTV News Channel.

Meanwhile, a Canadian C-130 aircraft along with a C-17 arrived in the country, carrying emergency supplies and a chopper.

CTV's Daniele Hamamdjian was on board the C-17 military transport, and she said the flight took nearly twice as long as it normally would because of delays at the airport.

After landing, Hamamdjian said the road into the city was strewn with debris and people with nowhere to go.

"We saw makeshift camps, we saw people lying on mattresses in the middle of nowhere, even bodies lying on the side of the road," she said, adding that many Haitians were living in abject poverty even before the catastrophe.

"Nonetheless, this is another disaster Haitians have to cope with."

Some people dragged the dead to local hospitals, where they hoped to leave them, but many hospitals in the city were closed because of damage.

Survivors could be seen dragging injured persons to hospitals in wheelbarrows and on stretchers made of doors.

The quake destroyed buildings both big and small, including the presidential palace and the headquarters for the UN peacekeeping mission.

On Thursday, UN officials said that 36 of its personnel died during the disaster. Eight have been rescued from the rubble and nearly 200 remain missing.

The UN's humanitarian chief said Thursday evening that co-ordinating the aid effort will only get tougher in the days to come.

"We're doing everything we possibly can," said John Holmes, speaking with CTV News Channel from New York.

He added that aid workers in the country don't even know the full extent of the crisis.

Donations for Haiti

The suffering seen in Haiti in the aftermath of the disaster has prompted members of the international community to pledge more than $200 million for emergency aid and relief.

The World Bank said it would pledge a $100 million grant, U.S. President Barack Obama announced "an immediate investment of $100 million" to support American relief efforts, and Britain pledged $10 million itself. At least 10 other countries pledged amounts under $10 million.

Obama said that "one of the largest relief efforts in our recent history" is underway, with U.S. troops and civilian rescue workers heading to the country.

"You will not be forsaken," said Obama, speaking to Haitians.

In Ottawa, the Canadian government offered an immediate pledge of $5 million, with a plan to match the charitable donations of individual Canadians, up to a total of $50 million.

With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press