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Personal moments as Haiti's President Rene Preval copes with the devastating earthquake

January 14, 2010 |  4:49 pm

Preval If there is any question about how alone Haitians can find themselves in dealing with the earthquake catastrophe, consider what happened to President Rene Preval.

On a hill so steep that many cars cannot get up it, surrounded by fences and gates and forest, sits the president’s private home.

Preval is gray-bearded, humble for a politician. He has always been seen as aloof, and ambivalent about being president. He was feeding his granddaughter Tuesday when the earthquake hit. He ran out of the guesthouse with the baby and tripped on the pavement, according to a close family member who was with him. He and the baby were fine. His spacious peach-colored house, with panoramic views of the Caribbean, collapsed.

Preval slept outside that night, on a little patch of lawn in the courtyard. They dragged out the baby girl’s bouncer and crib. Like everyone else, they had no water, no lights, no cellphone -- no way to communicate with the government or foreign diplomats.

On Wednesday, friends brought two Coleman tents for the family to sleep in. Preval left the compound, and his family didn’t know where he went.

Today, U.S. President Obama was unable to reach him.

--Joe Mozingo

Photo: Haitian president Rene Preval visits the Port-au-Prince International airport Jan. 13, 2010. Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images.

Haiti quake relief: How to help

Audio slide shows: Hope and Survival (graphic content)
Desperation in Port-au-Prince (graphic content)
Triage at the airport

Photos: Earthquake hits Haiti

Videos: Haiti earthquake and its aftermath