SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Santo Domingo, transformed suddenly from a peaceful tropical capital into a city of ruin and death by a disastrous hurricane, frantically besought aid from the outside world today.
Eight hundred dead have been counted, officials said, by rescuers searching the ruins of the city. A thousand more are believed injured. Throughout the once picturesque capital, which boasted of being the oldest seat of the white race in the new world, are scenes of desolation and intense suffering.
The hurricane which lashed the city with its greatest fury Wednesday, all but obliterated Santo Domingo. Today, 50,000 to 100,000 persons were homeless and the whole population in dire need of food and medical supplies.
With martial law prevailing, the entire army was called upon to prevent the chaos from spreading.
Santo Domingo expected first relief to appear from the skies through which the storm had travelled only a few hours before, for the fastest communication with the stricken city would be by airplane.
President Rafael L. Trujillo of the Dominican Republic assumed personal charge of the work of aiding his stricken fellow countrymen. He distributed alms to sufferers as he made his way through the path of misery left by the hurricane.
The city was without light and water. Thousands of homeless persons sought to recovery what they could from the debris, and others went through the ruins of their homes for the bodies of missing relatives and friends.
The customs house and warehouses were destroyed with a loss of great quantities of merchandise and provisions, thus cheating authorities of the hope that they might be able to feed survivors from reserve supplies.
Flood waters from the river Ozama, which flows through the center of the island and enters the sea at Santo Domingo, added to the damage and suffering and brought the further danger of disease and pestilence. A small village opposite the city, on the bank of the Ozama, was entirely wiped out by the floods.
Damage to the harbor, which was filled with debris, made it impossible for vessels to enter the port or leave, seriously hindering relief measures. The bridge across the Ozama also was destroyed.
With rescue workers making every effort to relieve the suffering in the city itself, there was no word from the interior of the republic, which was in the direct path of the storm. The tale of death and damage there remained to be told when communications wiped out by the hurricane could be re-established.
The buildings destroyed included the residence of United States Minister Charles B. Curtis.
The storm lifted roofs from houses as through they were paper, and flung trees into the streets and across sidewalks. To add to the horror of the stricken city, residents learned that inmates of an insane asylum, which had been destroyed, were roaming through Santo Domingo and other parts of the island.
First communication with the world came with the arrival by airplane of Col. Cary Crockett, aide to Governor Theodore Roosevelt of Porto Rico, who was sent by the governor to survey they damage. Col. Crockett conferred with President Trujillo, who told him that 800 bodies had been recovered. This applied to the city alone and took no account of death tolls in the interior.
Col. Crockett sent a message to Gov. Roosevelt urging immediate relief and describing the pitiable conditions on the island. Doctors and medical supplies were needed at once, he said, while blankets, rations, and funds were needed for from 50,000 and 100,000 persons.
One of the first tasks of volunteers was to clear the airplane landing field in order that planes might arrive from San Juan and Havana with medical and food supplies. The first airplane that flew over the city, before the arrival of Col. Crockett, did not land, presumably because the field was cluttered with debris.
Relief dispatches overland from reaching Santo Domingo, it was feared.
Illustrative of the suddenness with which the city was practically demolished by the hurricane, the weather cleared after the storm passed, and today a brilliant sun played upon the ruins of the capital.
The staff of the All American cable office, who fought desperately to maintain communication with the outside world until they were defeated by the storm, dispatched messages for aid as soon as communication was re-established. The cable office at San Juan, P.R., was asked to send supplies on Cable ship, including men's underwear, white or khaki suits, white socks, sheets, blankets, women's and children's clothing, canned foodstuffs, illuminating oil for hurricane lamps, candles, matches and tents.