You are here: Home

UN Chief Calls for Int'l Support in Wake of Devastating Haiti Quake

Adjust font size:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday issued an urgent call to the international community to assist Haiti following Tuesday's catastrophic earthquake that has devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation's capital.

Buildings and infrastructure in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, suffered extensive damage, while basic services, including water and electricity are near the brink of collapse. The full extent of casualties, which could number in the hundreds, is still unknown, Ban told reporters at the UN Headquarters in New York.

"There is no doubt that we are facing a major humanitarian emergency and that a major relief effort will be required," he said.

"Information on the full extent of the damage is still scanty," Ban said. "We are facing a major emergency and a major relief effort will be required."

"Basic services, such as water, electricity, have collapsed almost entirely," Ban said. "We have yet to establish a number of dead or injured, which we feel may well be in the hundreds."

Expressing gratitude to nations rushing aid to the earthquake's victims, he called for the world to "come to Haiti's aid in this hour of need."

The United Nations, he said, is also mobilizing an emergency response team to help coordinate humanitarian relief efforts and is expected to be on the ground shortly.

Many of UN personnel serving in the country -- including Hedi Annabi, the secretary-general's special representative for Haiti --are still unaccounted for, Ban said, with the UN Headquarters in the Christopher Hotel having collapsed in the tremors.

"Many people are still trapped inside," said the secretary-general, who has been in close consultation with the Governments of Haiti, the United States and others.

Troops, mostly from Brazil, serving with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have been working through the night to reach those trapped under the rubble, and several badly injured people have been rescued and transported to the mission's logistics base which remains intact.

Also on Wednesday, the UN Security Council observed one-minute silence to send "heart-felt condolence" to the dead, including UN peacekeepers and civilian staff, in the Haiti earthquake, which leveled the UN headquarters building in the capital Port-au-Prince.

Ban and members of the Security Council all stood up for one-minute silence to mourn the victims in the devastating earthquake at the request of the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, Zhang Yesui, who holds the rotating Security Council presidency for January.

Zhang made the request as the 15-nation Security Council began an open debate on the cooperation between the United Nation and regional, subregional organizations in maintaining the international peace and security.

The members of the Security Council sent "heart-felt condolences" to the government and people of Haiti, Zhang said.

Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, told journalists today that fewer than 10 UN staff were pulled out of the collapsed Christopher Hotel, with some of them confirmed to have died.

The Montana Hotel, where some UN personnel lived, also collapsed, he said.

UN Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark told reporters that some 38 members of her staff are unaccounted for.

The secretary-general announced today that he will dispatch Edmond Mulet, his former special representative to Haiti and current assistant-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, to the small island country, and that the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) is releasing US$10 million immediately.

"The first priority is search and rescue," with teams from the United States, China, France, the Dominican Republic and other nations on their way to Haiti, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters on Wednesday morning.

The United Nations, he said, will launch a flash appeal to kick start what "will certainly be a major operation and a major relief effort."

MINUSTAH was set up in 2004 and currently has more than 9,000 military and police personnel and nearly 2,000 civilian staff. Some 3,000 of the mission's troops and police are in and around Port-au-Prince, and will help maintain order and assist in relief efforts. They have also started to clear some of the capital's main roads to allow aid and rescuers to reach those in need.

(Xinhua News Agency January 14, 2010)

Related News & Photos