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UN Chief: Most Urgent Need for Haiti is Emergency Search, Rescue

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said here Wednesday that the "most urgent need is emergency search and rescue" in the wake of the deadly earthquake that jolted Haiti on Tuesday.

Briefing the General Assembly on the emergency in Haiti, Ban told member states that a Chinese emergency rescue team had arrived in Haiti's capital, Port-au- Prince.

Two teams from the United States are expected to arrive by Wednesday night with two more by Thursday morning, Ban said.

Additional search and rescue teams are said to be arriving from Guadeloupe and the Dominican Republic with other rescue teams on their way from many other countries, he said.

"In any emergency like this, the early hours and days are critical," Ban said. "That is why I have directed the United Nations humanitarian agencies to mobilize swiftly and in close coordination with the international community."

"In the next few days, we will issue a flash appeal for Haiti," Ban said, adding that he expected his humanitarian coordinators to assess the necessary needs and funding.

Ban said that he has ordered US$10 million to be released from the Central Emergency Fund (CERF) to kick start the relief efforts.

"But if the days ahead are difficult, we can advance in hope ..guided by clear knowledge that, in this dark hour, the community of nations will unite in its resolve and help Haiti to overcome the latest trauma and begin the work of social and economic reconstruction that will carry this proud nation forward," Ban said.

Also speaking at Wednesday's General Assembly briefing was former US President Bill Clinton, the special envoy for the United Nations in Haiti, who said a "flash appeal" for aid is needed.

"We have got to find who's alive," Clinton said, adding that this has to be done on the ground.

"Haiti's in trouble now," Clinton said, adding that "what we need now is food, water, supplies for first aid, and shelter" as well as long-term support from the international community.

(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2010)