The damage in Haiti's capital seemed nearly random.

Some hillsides of homes look as if they had simply crumbled into the dirt. Other buildings, such as the cheerful-looking Rose Restaurant, appear untouched.

But along the city's roadsides, the true cost of Tuesday's magnitude 7 earthquake was readily visible: the bodies of victims neatly lined up, some covered in white sheets and some not.

The corpses included that of a young girl -- perhaps a teenager -- in pink shorts; a couple lying next to one another; a man covered in a sheet up save for his horribly swollen feet poking out from beneath.

There was virtually no sign of outside assistance other than a few United Nations vehicles passing by -- and there was no police presence, no water being handed out, no encampments except those set up by people apparently left homeless by the quake or those too afraid to go back into their ramshackle homes in case of aftershocks.

Tent and tarp cities had quickly sprung up wherever there was shade or open space, including on the sprawling grounds outside the prime minister's office. Virtually no shops were open, leaving residents in the street with no apparent means of feeding themselves or finding water.

Outside the Hopital Canape-Vert, a crowd surged toward the entrance. A few bodies covered in sheets lied nearby on the road. From the crowded streets, choked with cars and pedestrians, one could hear a person screaming from inside the medical facility.

The most formal kind of "triage" in plain sight was on the grounds of the once-lavish Hotel Villa Creole, which had been turned into a makeshift outdoor hospital. The grounds were covered with injured -- swollen, bloody limbs, crying children, others too weak or injured to make a sound.

"Ask him if he can wiggle his toes," a man who appeared to be a doctor said to a woman as a young boy slumped in one of the hotel's wicker lounge chairs.

Across the capital, some of the worst damage appeared to be in hillside neighborhoods such as Petionville.

Elsewhere in the city, structures lay collapsed like giant sandwiches, with layer upon layer of concrete and remnants showing through: mattresses, shreds of clothing, chairs.

Major hotels were either destroyed or closed. A gas station had collapsed, burying a black sedan and, presumably, its passengers.

tina.susman@latimes.com