‘Tens of thousands’ killed in Haiti quake

January 14th, 2010 - 4:44 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 14 (DPA) Haitian President Rene Preval said estimates of the death toll in the devastating earthquake in capital Port-au- Prince could easily be in the tens of thousands, while other officials said more than 100,000 may have perished.
“Up to now I’ve heard 50,000, I’ve heard 30,000. Let’s say, it’s too early to give a number,” Preval told broadcaster CNN, conceding

that any sort of official estimate was extremely difficult. “I am still trying to understand myself the magnitude of the event.”

Earlier, he had told The Miami Herald that thousands may have been killed in the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that rocked the country

Tuesday afternoon, and issued an appeal for world assistance. The damage was centred in and around the capital Port-au-Prince, home to

about 1.9 million people.

Figures for the number of dead remain murky as the government tries to assess the damage.

Speaking on CNN, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said: “I believe that we are well over 100,000″ dead, based on the number of

buildings that have collapsed.

The UN mission in Haiti said Wednesday that the country suffered “massive and broad” destruction from the devastating earthquakes which may result in large number of casualties.

Fifty to 100 UN staff remained unaccounted for a day after the earthquake, said Vicznezo Pugliese, spokesman for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Separate reports say the dead included soldiers from Brazil, China and Jordan.

The end death toll could amount to the largest number of deaths ever for any UN single mission. UN officials warned that the situation remained fluid because the quake and its aftershocks had cut off communication lines between UN headquarters in New York and

the mission in Haiti.

Pugliese said hotels, hospitals, schools and the national prison in Port-au-Prince all suffered extensive damage. Electricity was interrupted and water was in short supply.

“Casualties, which are vast, can only be estimated,” Pugliese said in a statement made available at UN headquarters in New York.

The missing staff had worked in the main MINUSTAH office, a six-storey concrete building which collapsed. Normally, between 200 and 250 UN staff worked in the main office building but many may have left before the quakes struck.

Ten other staff were still unaccounted for who worked for UN agencies like the UN Development Programme, some of whom were in hotels.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians slept in the streets Tuesday night after the earthquake struck, fearful that their houses would collapse. UN soldiers and police patrolled Port-au-Prince since the earthquake to maintain order and security.

The UN Security Council held a minute of silence before it met Wednesday and issued a statement expressing “deepest sympathy and solidarity” to Haitians killed or affected by the catastrophe.

The 15-nation council also voiced support for the government of Haiti and called on UN members to assist the country in rescuing the survivors.

John Holmes, the top UN coordinator for humanitarian emergency, said there was no “reliable information at the moment”.

The earthquake with magnitude of 7 on the Richter scale struck the impoverished Caribbean nation Tuesday right before 5 p.m. local time.

Holmes said a Chinese search and rescue team had arrived in Port-au-Prince. There are 119 Chinese police in the UN mission in Haiti. Taiwan was sending 55 rescue workers and two search-and-rescue dogs, Taiwan officials said earlier Wednesday.

US and other country rescue teams were scheduled to reach Haiti in coming days.

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