All Max St. Louis and his family can do is watch TV reports on the devastation wrought by the most powerful earthquake to hit Haiti in more than 200 years. There is no way to communicate with their relatives back in Port-au-Prince, the capital. They tried all last night and into today.

All Max St. Louis and his family can do is watch TV reports on the devastation wrought by the most powerful earthquake to hit Haiti in more than 200 years. There is no way to communicate with their relatives back in Port-au-Prince, the capital. They tried all last night and into today.

“We are one step away from an anxiety attack,” St. Louis said today from his Randolph home. “You can imagine, it’s very scary.”

Nannette Canniff, president and co-founder of the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation in Randolph, is at the foundation’s hospital in Fond des Blancs, about 60 miles from Port-au-Prince. Her daughter, Karen Canniff of Randolph, told The Patriot Ledger today that her mother, father Fred and sister-in-law Linda Canniff of Norwood are all safe.

“They are saying they have some cracked walls and building damage where they are and there have been a lot of aftershocks,” Karen Canniff said. But the hospital is still standing and no one has been hurt there.

Members of the Haitian community living on the South Shore – an estimated 15 percent of Randolph’s residents are of Haitian heritage – say it’s been impossible to reach anyone in Port-au-Prince, where about one-third of the country’s 9 million people live. There are an estimated 80,000 Haitians living in Massachusetts.

What they’ve seen on TV is heartbreaking.

St. Louis said images of the wreckage of the National Palace are the toughest to take.

“It’s a symbol of the country and to see it destroyed, it’s just really sad.”

Given the damage to that and other government buildings, he said people’s homes didn’t stand a chance.

“I don’t expect any house to withstand an earthquake. There are no (building) rules. People build wherever and however they feel like, if they can.”

St. Louis urged people to help with the relief efforts but cautioned that donations should be made only to well-known and established organizations.

“There have been in the past times when people have taken money and been false and the money has not reached Haiti,” he said.

“Now Haiti needs that help 10,000-fold.”

The Patriot Ledger