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The voices of the Haitian Montrealers were cracked and tired, tinged with a tone of desperation.

"Has anyone heard from my family?" one woman sobbed over the radio.

"I'm so worried. Please, if anyone listening has news, please tell us," another cried.

"My sister and aunt live in Delmas has anyone heard news from them?"

From morning till night, the airwaves of Montreal radio station CPAM, a lifeline to the city's large Haitian community, crackled with the appeals of loved ones starved for news from their homeland but powerless to obtain it.

Their appeals spread over the radio into Haitian groceries, taxis and Creole restaurants across Montreal, uniting a community devastated again by news of hardship from their benighted homeland.

So it went across the land. The Haitian diaspora in Canada is heartbroken, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean said - overwhelmed by the scope of the catastrophe in Haiti, finding the images of destruction unbearable to watch.

In Montreal, home to about 100,000 people of Haitian origin, rare is the expatriate without a family member back home. Many stayed awake through the night trying Twitter, e-mail and cellphones to connect with loves ones. Few succeeded.

Éline Occessitu had been trying since Tuesday evening to reach her two children, aged 12 and 14, in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Seated in a room at the Maison d'Haiti, a Montreal community centre, Ms. Occessitu clutched her cellphone in case it might ring. By Tuesday evening, it still hadn't.

"I have had no news from my children. I don't know where they are," she said. "Are they still alive? I don't know. It's very, very hard."

Strong ties have formed between Montreal and Haiti, forged through waves of immigration dating to the 1960s. They have created bonds in areas ranging from humanitarian aid to missionary work and the arts. At one Montreal church, the Outremont Church of God, hundreds of congregants gathered to say a prayer for the people of Haiti; their pastor had arrived in Port-au-Prince only hours before the quake struck and hadn't been heard from since.

Stanley Péan, a Montreal novelist and chairman of the Quebec writers' union, was to fly to Port-au-Prince Wednesday morning, where he was to join award-winning author and fellow Haitian Quebecker Dany Laferrière for a literary festival.

Instead, Mr. Péan is in Montreal and working with one of several aid groups to help bring basics like food and water to Haiti.

"There is great worry now, tinged with despair," Mr. Péan said. Even for a country that seems to lurch from political crisis to natural disaster, the earthquake finds no precedence.

"We don't want to be superstitious, but we find ourselves asking why bad luck befalls Haiti," Mr. Péan said. "It's been a 200-year history of an irresponsible and selfish political elite along with unspeakable natural disasters. And now this."

To many Haitians in Montreal, no image of ruin was as potent as that of the collapsed Presidential Palace, a symbol of strength and power amid the country's endless political instability.

"Through all the political crises, the Palace has resisted," said Robert Ismaël, a federal civil servant and radio host at CPAM. "When we saw the Palace fall, it was like seeing the general fall in a battalion. It's a catastrophe."

At a busy Montreal barber shop catering to the Haitian community, security guard Alexandre Jackson had spent a sleepless night trying to reach his parents in Haiti. Unable to get through, he turned in the morning to the prayer service at the Outremont church.

"I didn't just pray for my family, I prayed for everyone," Mr. Jackson said amid the patrons. "I prayed that those who didn't die would find a way now to survive."