UN consolidating relief, rescue efforts in Haiti (Lead)

January 16th, 2010 - 1:20 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Jan 15 (DPA) The United Nations has set offices to coordinate the enormous task of assisting Haitians devastated by the earthquake as international rescue teams combed Port-au-Prince for survivors, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said Friday.
The UN was also to launch on Friday a flash appeal for 550 million dollars in emergency funds to assist the quake-ravaged country. Most of the urgently needed money will go to provide food, water and medical supplies to help the quake victims immediately.

Ban said he will “very soon” visit Haiti for a first-hand assessment of the humanitarian conditions in one of the world’s poorest countries.

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), with 7,000 military troops and 2,000 international police, was badly hit by the earthquake. There are also about 3,000 civilian personnel, both foreigners and locals.

On Friday, the UN confirmed 37 deaths among its mission, with 36 MINUSTAH troops and a staffer for the World Food Programme killed.

About 330 UN personnel remain missing or unaccounted for. Many of the those missing could be Haitians who had returned home to their families, but not contacted the UN.

There was yet any confirmation about the fate of MINUSTAH chief Hedi Annabi and his deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa, who were among those buried in the rubble of the UN main headquarters.

“We are as keen as you about finding out the picture,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Ban said the UN has established a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team at international airport to coordinate the search and rescue efforts of 27 international teams.

“Reports on the extent of the devastation in Haiti are still coming in, each seemingly worse than the last,” Ban said, adding that half of Port au Prince and other affected areas has been destroyed. The area has 3 million people.

“A major humanitarian effort is now well underway,” he said. “Although it is inevitably slower and more difficult than any of us would wish, we are mobilizing all resources as fast as we possibly can.”

“Search and rescue remains a monumental effort. Heavy lifting equipment is still urgently needed,” he said.

Ban said the quick response from the international community has been “generous and robust.”

“We urgently need medical supplies and, even more, emergency medical personnel,” he said.

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