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More Than 100 UN Personnel Missing After Haiti Earthquake

Margaret Besheer | United Nations 13 January 2010

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says more than 100 U.N. personnel are missing in Haiti and the organization is assessing the damage from the massive earthquake that rocked the country Tuesday. Mr. Ban said he is dispatching a senior U.N. official to Haiti and is immediately releasing $10 million in emergency assistance.

A somber U.N. chief told reporters the earthquake devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince, but other areas of the country appear to be largely unaffected. Basic services such as water and electricity have collapsed in the capital.

"We are yet to establish a number of dead or injured, which we feel, may well be in the hundreds. Medical facilities have been inundated with injured. There is no doubt we are facing a major humanitarian emergency and that a major relief effort will be required."

The United Nations has more than 9,000 peacekeeping troops and police in Haiti, and an additional 1,900 civilian personnel. The main U.N. headquarters at the Hotel Christopher collapsed Tuesday, but the mission's main logistics base is in intact. It is feared many of the missing personnel could be trapped in the rubble of the hotel.

Mr. Ban would not confirm reports of 15 peacekeepers killed in the quake, saying there are many U.N. colleagues unaccounted for. Among them, the head of the mission, long time U.N. official, Hedi Annabi.

Peacekeeping Chief Alain LeRoy said the United Nations is working to learn the fate of its personnel.

"As we speak there are still over 100 people unaccounted for under the rubble. We do not know about their fate," LeRoy said. "To your question, some people have been extracted out of the building - but only less than 10 for the time being. Some dead, some alive. So we do not know for the time being the fate of the others. But of course, we are extremely, extremely concerned."

About 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers are based in Port-au-Prince and they are working to clear roads to assist search and rescue teams in their work.

The secretary-general said he is dispatching Mr. Annabi's predecessor in Haiti, Edmond Mulet, to the island. Mulet is currently the deputy Peacekeeping Chief.

Officials said the airport is currently fully operational and U.N. peacekeepers are securing the facility, as well as the port and the capital. But it is clear that many important buildings have collapsed or are damaged, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly, several ministries and the Montana Hotel.

Search and rescue efforts are ongoing, with teams from the United States, China, Guadalupe and the Dominican Republic sending reinforcements.

The United Nations is also sending a team to do an assessment of humanitarian needs and is gearing up for the massive assistance mission that will be necessary.

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