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UN Organizations Recover from Haiti Quake, Situation Stable

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The United Nations is recovering little by little from last week's massive earthquake in Haiti to provide more and more humanitarian assistance to the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince, the UN chief of mission said Tuesday.

"The situation on the ground is quite stable and normal," said Edmond Mullet, acting special representative of UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters in a video teleconference from the Haitian capital. He also denied reports of mass looting and rampaging violence.

Mullet, a former special representative in the Haitian capital, arrived about 36 hours after the January 12 quake to take up leadership after Special Representative Hedi Annabi was fatally trapped in the wreckage of UN Haiti headquarters with one of his two deputies and the acting UN police commissioner.

The bodies of more than 40 UN personnel have been pulled from the debris with approximately 20 more people missing, said David Wimhurst, a UN spokesman in Port-au-Prince. It is the single highest death toll of UN personnel in the world organization's history. Two major UN headquarters building collapsed.

"My main task has been to put the mission back on its feet," said Mullet in describing how the United Nations has been reinforcing the UN Stabilization Mission to Haiti, known by its French acronym, Minustah.

"It's like in airplanes when the pressure drops you have these oxygen masks that drop," he said. "You have to put it on yourself first and then you have to help the other ones. So we have to help ourselves first in order to perform our mandate and then help others."

He said the UN mission was "under a lot of pressure from many groups, many sectors" to not only carry out its original assignment but also perform "much more right now in relation to humanitarian assistance, providing security, coordination mechanisms with everybody on the ground. So the pressure on the mission has been really, really enormous."

"But, little by little, day by day, we have been improving in our performance and working better, not only internally, but also in our support side to other partners," Mullet continued.

"It is true that some incidents have happened of looting," he said. "Food has been taken from destroyed supermarkets and shops, which is almost a normal situation in these kind of circumstances. But we have not seen, at all, any kind of violent rampages or swarms of looters, or people attacking or aggressive actions against anybody."

Televised reports on US networks from Port-au-Prince have shown what appears to be looting and some violence among apparent looters on the streets of the Haitian capital..

The acting special representative said that in the last 48 hours military and police patrols in Port-au-Prince have been increased, with the number of Haiti National Police doubling Tuesday from Monday's 2,000 on patrol.

"We are helping with humanitarian deliveries," he added. "The military especially have been involved in that."

Mullet said Canadian and US troops were instrumental in humanitarian aid and agreements were being worked out with both nations on roles being assumed and areas to be covered. He said it was seen Canadian forces would be assisting in the south and southwest of the island nation and the US forces in the capital.

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