Aid urged as quake toll soars past 100,000

08:30, January 15, 2010      

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A Haitian woman weeps in desperation in front of a house in Port-au-Prince, which was devastated in a massive earthquake that took place late Tuesday afternoon. Photo: Xinhua

By Qiu Wei

Progress was slow in Thursday's ongoing search for people buried in the rubble of the UN headquarters building in the Haitian capital, including eight Chinese nationals, two days after a devastating earthquake flattened much of Port-au-Prince and was feared to have killed up to 100,000 in the country.

Joining international aid operations, a 50-strong Chinese rescue squad flew into the Caribbean nation in the early hours Thursday local time onboard a chartered flight with three search dogs and about 20 tons of food, medicine and emergency equipment – enough for about two weeks of operations.

Wu Min, with the China National Earthquake Disaster Emergency Rescue Team, said that aid operations were already in full gear on the ground in the Haitian capital.

"The team has reported to the UN disaster response office for cooperation with other squads, and a number of rescuers are already at the site of the collapsed UN building in search of people buried in the debris," Wu said in Beijing Thursday. "More medical staff members at home are on standby."

Four Chinese UN peacekeepers and four individuals from a working group sent by the Public Security Ministry were missing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Thursday.

Consultations between the eight Chinese and their UN counterparts were underway in the UN Stabilization Mission building when the quake occurred, according to a statement by the Ministry of Public Security.

Other Chinese nationals in Haiti were safe, Jiang confirmed. A total of 142 Chinese peacekeepers were serving the UN mission in Haiti, the Xinhua News Agency said.

Fifty-three Chinese police peacekeepers and more than 400 locals started searching for missing people before the Chinese rescue team arrived, Xinhua said.

Hectic operation

There were few signs Thursday of organized operations to rescue those trapped in debris or to remove bodies, and doctors in Haiti are ill-equipped to treat the injured, Reuters reported.
Normal communications were cut off, roads were blocked by rubble and trees, electricity was interrupted and water was in short supply, reports said.

Many survivors were reportedly afraid to return to their homes, opting instead to sleep in the streets and open areas.
The quake reduced thousands of buildings to debris. Among them was the UN mission headquarters and a major hotel where 200 tourists were missing.

At least 22 UN staffers were killed in the quake and some 150 were still missing, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Thursday, according to AFP.

Ban added that he was not in a position to confirm the death of his special envoy to Haiti, Hedi Annabi, which was announced by Haitian President Rene Preval Wednesday.

Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN''s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that the UN was "very anxious, not just for international staff but also national staff from whom we have no news."

Source:Global Times

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