Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
14 January 2010
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Okay, apparently we do have audio, but not [image]. And we’re trying to get the video back again. If you think that it would be a useful use of your time, and of course of our colleagues’ time there in Haiti, then may be we should start, and I would ask David and Kim: Can you hear me? It’s Martin Nesirky here.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Yeah, we can thank you very much.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: Yes.
Spokesperson: All right. Thank you very much for doing this. Could I ask you: I am assuming you might have some introductory information you would want to put before taking questions? The floor is yours. Can you see us, by the way?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Not currently, but more importantly, we need to hear you. So, if you could speak loudly, we would be grateful.
Spokesperson: Okay, very good.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: Now we can see.
Spokesperson: So, please the floor is yours.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Thank you very much. We’re going to do this in two parts: Kim Bolduc, who is the acting Head of this Mission, will introduce the humanitarian relief efforts that have been taking place, and following that, I will make a short comment about the situation on the MINUSTAH side, military police and so on, plus our search, ongoing search for casualties, and then we could take questions.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: Thank you very much. I am Kim Bolduc. I am the DSRSG, and in charge of humanitarian and relief efforts right now at the Mission. I would like to inform you that damages and casualties are currently being assessed, as the earthquake has been very massive, with very extensive problems all around the city, in housing, government buildings, UN buildings as well. Concrete figures are not yet available, but we’re working on them. Hospitals, hotels, banks, other commercial buildings have also been heavily hit, and no longer operational.
An important number of people are still trapped under the rubble, and we have already gotten some support in search and rescue teams to look for them. At this point many teams have already arrived in the country; namely the Dominican Republic, the French team, the Chinese team and the American teams.
The UN system has been very severely affected by this disaster, as two of our main buildings, including the MINUSTAH headquarters and a UNDP house have totally collapsed. We have many staff members still unaccounted for, but we believe that they might be somewhere in their houses. So, we have opened up a sort of house-by-house research to find out about their whereabouts. More information on these figures will come probably tomorrow.
Response started immediately. We have gathered the UN system and the humanitarian community to provide support. It has been difficult, because access is hampered by obstruction in the roads. Our communication systems have collapsed, and the IT networks as well. We’re gradually restoring internet access, as well as some sat-phone system functioning. Much more, however, needs to be done, with the support of the international community as a matter of extreme urgency, in order to meet the crucial needs that we’re verifying by the day.
Two days after the disaster, our main priorities remain search and rescue teams, as many people are still trapped. We need to strengthen the coordination capacity, and mobilize resources for response operations. The distribution of food and water has started, as of today, to the most affected populations. We’re looking at the immediate shelters; as people are sleeping in the streets right now for fear of aftershocks, which have been coming until yesterday.
At this point, the UN has mobilized all the available resources, and the partners that are helping us are flying in a very large amount of relief support. Planes are landing all the time. We do not have a clear inventory of which are the military flights, and some of them are coming in with humanitarian support; but they are forthcoming. OCHA is preparing to launch an immediate flash appeal to cater for the requirements of the population. Right now, the Central Emergency Fund is also preparing the basic requirements in terms of food and non-food items: water and logistics, so that we could, for the first month, at least take care of 1 million people. These are the figures we’re working on, although we estimate that the requirements are much higher than that.
We have set up also a humanitarian forum that started to convene yesterday. That humanitarian forum includes the participation of the MINUSTAH capacity, together with the UN humanitarian agencies; with also the participation of NGOs, major NGOs that have gathered and Log [Logistics] Base. We have set up our headquarters at the Log Base of MINUSTAH by the airport, to facilitate communication and issuance of information.
We’re expecting the arrival today of an UNDAC -- a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination -- team, being sent in to carry out an extensive assessment of damage and requirements. Their work is starting today in the afternoon, or tomorrow morning. We have now five clusters to which we are inviting all the partners. These five clusters are meant to facilitate the coordination of work, namely; one on logistics, led by WFP. The second one on health led by WHO. The third one on water and sanitation, led by UNICEF; and the last one on shelter and NFI -- [inaudible]…non-food items -- led by IOM.
The clusters are counting on the continued support of the MINUSTAH military, so that we have the security guaranteed by the MINUSTAH escorting our distribution groups, and also protecting the distribution centres and the warehouses containing humanitarian supplies and food. Thank you.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Okay. Let me bring you up to speed on some of the activities that are going on in MINUSTAH, the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti. In this landscape of rather bleak news about the situation in Haiti, there is one strikingly good story that I can begin the briefing with. And that is that after two days under the rubble of Hotel Christopher, we were able to extract this morning, live and well, a security officer, a personal protection officer, who had been found four metres below the lowest level of the rubble.
Kim mentioned to you that the rescue teams, the expert rescue teams are coming in -- American, Chinese, French and Dominican; and overnight, they were working with dogs among other things, and sound equipment, audio equipment, and they were able to locate our colleague. And this morning they were able to extract him from the rubble. Now, this will indicate to you that the process of search and rescue is critical, and that we can only proceed delicately and carefully; looking in all of the offices that have collapsed with these experts to try save as many people as we can. The next phase, when this stage has been exhausted, we will then move in with heavier equipment to move concrete and go into the task of recovering bodies.
Let me give you some figures. These are not absolutely firm figures; they’re the best I can give you under the circumstances. But in terms of statistics of casualties so far, this is the following information I have:
On the police side, we have 4 dead, 9 injured and 18 missing. This is out of a total police population of 2,000; roughly 2,090. That is, 1,100 United Nations police and 990 formed police units.
On the military side, we have 19 dead, 26 injured and 10 missing, out of a total of about 7,000 military personnel.
And on the international and UNV side, the staff side, we have, as far as we know to date, 13 dead, 38 injured, of which 24 are national staff -- Haitian staff -- and we have about 160 people still unaccounted for. And this is out of a total of 490 international staff, 1,235 national staff, and 215 United Nations Volunteers.
We have made eight live rescues from the rubble; seven of them from our headquarters in Hotel Christopher; and one of them from a nearby UN office, and we have -- that’s eight live rescues, including the one I mentioned to you just now that happened this morning, and we have recovered 13 bodies from the wreckage of our headquarters in Hotel Christopher. Thank you.
Spokesperson: Okay, thank you very much for that, Kim and David. I’m going to do it this way for the questions. I’m going to … Can you see us now? We can see you. Okay, so, what I will do, I will ask the correspondents to identify themselves and to put their questions. Okay, so, James Bone first, please.
**Questions and Answers
Question: David, Hello, it’s James Bone of the London Times. It’s good to see you’re looking so well. Hello, Kim. Can I ask you, first of all, have either of you spoken to Tarmo Joveer? Have either of you spoken to the Estonian close security officer who was rescued? Or can you tell us anything about his condition and his mood? And also, can you describe your own personal experiences both of you in the earthquake? Where were you and what happened in the immediate time of the earthquake?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Okay, let me start off with your first question. Our colleague who was rescued is going to come and see me. I haven’t spoken to him yet. I had suggested that if he wished to do so, he could come to this briefing, and address you himself, but I’m not sure he’s ready to do that. I do know that he walked out of there unscathed. I mean, he’s been medically inspected and evaluated. He doesn’t have any serious injuries. Obviously, he was rather dehydrated, and covered in dust. He will be evacuated later today, I think, or tomorrow. But he’s walking, and he’s talking. I can’t tell you his mood, I haven’t seen him yet. But, I assume he’s very like all of us, I have to say, very, very grateful to be alive.
And briefly, just let me tell you my own experience of the earthquake. I was in my office, and of course the event happened and it accelerated with extreme violence. The entire building was shaking violently, and I was hanging on to furniture just to stop myself from being thrown around the room, and praying that the big concrete pillar in the middle of my office would not break and bring the whole building down on me. When it subsided, the hotel, the central part of the MINUSTAH headquarters had collapsed and had blocked off access to the outside from my office. So, all other people in my wing had to get out of my window and go down three stories on a ladder, a rather rickety ladder. So, that was the situation on my side the moment the earthquake happened, and I’m sure Kim will be glad to share her experience with you.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: Yes. I was also in my office, sitting on the second floor of the UNDP main building. UNDP has two buildings; the main one and one across the street. It was extremely violent. I didn’t even have time to seek cover. I was sitting on my chair and holding to the table, everything collapsed around. I saw the wall in front of me opening up with a very large crack, and I was just, I think, just hoping that it would stop. It lasted a long time. The moment it stopped, I came out of the room and saw my staff all around. We gathered and got out. The UNDP main building is still standing, although no longer operational and extremely damaged. Then I saw across the street the other UNDP building had gone down completely; it has collapsed completely. Behind me are two other buildings occupied by UN agencies. All of the staff which were inside the main UNDP building and the other two UN buildings escaped unharmed. But we got during several hours trapped, over 10 people in the house that has collapsed across the street. So, we spent the night sitting in the parking lot, as there were many aftershocks. Thank you.
Question: Can I just ask, David, your office -- where was your office? Was your office in the Christopher?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Yes. My office was in the Christopher, yes.
Question: And you were on the third floor?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Yes.
Question: In American terms or in British…?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: The Christopher, you come in on the ground floor from the main entrance. And then the actual, the rest of the building goes down several floors below ground level, invisible from the outside because the whole thing is built on the side of a hill. So, I am on the ground floor level coming in from the main entrance; but in fact more than three floors above the other side of the building.
Question: Which side did you come out of?
Spokesperson: Please identify yourself.
Question: Neil Farquahar from The New York Times. You said you came down a ladder, was that from the ground floor side or from the second floor side?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: That was from, well, I mean, we went, one, two, three, I think we went down how many? Three, three floors. We went down three floors on a ladder, yeah. That was propped up on a wall so, the base of the ladder is wider than the wall; it was propped up on the wall and we were being held by colleagues below and guided down slowly. I think we got about 15 staff out on that ladder.
Spokesperson: Okay, Bill.
Question: Bill Varner, Bloomberg News. Thank you. Could you both give me a sense of what you’ve seen on the street? Give me a sort of eyewitness [inaudible]… what you’ve seen, what the situation is as got from where you were down to the Log Base; and sort of what the feel of the town is right now? How people are wondering around, sleeping on the street, just that kind of stuff.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Kim and I both travelled in a convoy from our UN headquarters, our broken, smashed up UN headquarters down to this Log Base. I’ll allow Kim to give you, to start, please, and then I’ll share my impressions with you of that trip and what we saw.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: It’s almost a ghost town that we went through on that morning of Tuesday when we were moved from our headquarters to Log Base. Many bodies along the street, a lot of injured people just lying around, houses are destroyed and very new and lush buildings totally collapsed. It is now at night. Port-au-Prince doesn’t have electricity; it looks like a ghost town, and the situation is very dire, because all the survivors are sleeping out in the street. So, they took concrete blocks and they put just in the street, on the road, and they sleep on the road. So, if we want to go through, we have to take alternative roads; and it’s very difficult to get from one point to the other. People are all in a state of shock; they are not really talking; they are just gathering and sitting together, just waiting for something to happen, and fearing aftershocks.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: It’s a very, very distressing sight. The people we see, you know, they’ve lost everything. They have…It’s hopeless. It’s a hopeless situation for them. They won’t ask; they expect us to provide them with help, which is of course what we want to do. But we’re not in a situation yet where we can do that on a massive scale. And unfortunately, they’re slowly getting angrier, I think, and impatient because they… when they see us moving, and we’re are out on… we’re patrolling the streets; the military and the police are out patrolling the streets in order to maintain a calm situation so that humanitarian aid can be delivered. That’s essential. Then they’re also out, by the way collecting the dead bodies that are littering the streets, as they’re a serious health hazard. But, I fear, we all are rather aware of the fact that the situation is getting more tense as the poorest people, who have nothing and need so much, are waiting for deliveries and of course, we’re trying to do everything we can to get them the help they need. But, I think tempers might become frayed.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: I would like to add that it is remarkable that the population that has been left with nothing and sleeping out in the street have not carried out any sort of looting at all. All the collapsed buildings have been respected, and at this point, what they’re asking for is help to gather the bodies and to dispose of them, and to carry the injured to medical facilities. And this we’re trying. David rightly pointed out the risk of getting, having a social unrest very soon. That’s why, as of today, WFP is starting distribution centres for food and water, accompanied by the military. And we’re moving as fast as we can to show that we’re here, and we do have enough reserves for a number of days until we get more supplies coming our way. But we’re starting and we have enough to go on for like a week of distribution of relief support.
Spokesperson: Okay, in the second row, please.
Question: [inaudible]… from Al-Jazeera-English. Given that things are getting tense, are the 3,000 police officers that you have enough and is there any effort to bring peacekeepers from other parts of the country to help in that effort, or will other countries be providing assistance in that way?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: [inaudible]… We discussed this from headquarters this morning actually, and so far we feel confident that we have enough numbers of military and police to handle the situation. And we will, if necessary, bring troops or police in from the outside areas into Port-au-Prince. One of the problems is that the national Haitian police are not visible at all, right. They’ve simply varnished; they’ve disappeared. So, all law and order requirements have to be maintained by us. To date, it’s been taken care of. But obviously, if the situation should deteriorate, the Mission is in a position to request through the Secretariat, additional support. But so far, we don’t feel that’s necessary.
Question: David, you mean they just “disappeared”? …[inaudible]… they’ve gone home? There is just no police on the streets of any kind?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: We don’t see them. We don’t see them; we don’t seem them on the streets at all. I mean, don’t forget they’re Haitians, too, and their family homes have been smashed up or destroyed and their family members have been injured or killed, and so, they’re acting obviously to look after their nearest and dearest. I’m not making a criticism here, but simply the fact that the Haitian police are no longer visible publicly.
Question: Hi, Catherine [inaudible]… from CBC Radio Canada. I have a question for both of you, and if Kim you could answer partly in French, it would be wonderful. I would like to know what’s happening with Hédi Annabi. And also with the fact that the number one and two of the Mission in Haiti are unaccounted for. How has that impacted the coordination effort of relief and humanitarian aid? Thank you.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: Yes, indeed since we have our top management are still missing, it has been in the first hours a real challenge to gather all the efforts of the Mission together and get people to continue working. [Continues answer in French.]
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: I would just add that I really endorse everything Kim has just said, and just re-explain to you perhaps that when we recover bodies, victims of this or any other incident, who are UN personnel, first of all the identification process is done in conjunction with New York. And then the families have to be informed. And it’s only after that process has been finalized that identities can be released. So, to date, we’ve not been able to release any identities because that process is still under way. I’d also just say that in the coming days, sadly, we must expect, as the search and rescue effort gives way slowly to the removal of very heavy, very, very heavy concrete and rubble, which has been impeding process, we will start to recover more bodies. So, that is something, a phase that we’re going to slowly have to move into.
Question: Kim this is [inaudible name] for CBC News Up to the Minute. You made a comment before about there being no looting. We have reports this morning of looting at a supermarket, people carrying out bags, electronics, that sort of thing. You’ve actually seen no looting at all? Have you gotten any other reports, because we’ve been getting reports about looting for 24 hours?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: I think that, I mean, we have not personally seen any looting. And when we were going on our very long trip through Port-au-Prince, it was indeed as Kim said. The population was behaving in a very dignified and calm way. But, nonetheless, it’s true one of the main supermarkets in Port-au-Prince has collapsed, and we’re getting reports that, you know, that some looting has taken place in this, and probably in other vulnerable areas where you know, commercial goods are now more or less readily available.
Question: [Begins to ask question in French, but interrupted by Spokesperson]…
Spokesperson: Please, for the colleagues who don’t speak French, say it in English as well. Ask it in French and please say it in English as well.
Question: [in French]
Spokesperson: This question has just been answered.
Question: She wants an answer in French.
Question: Yeah, that’s right.
Spokesperson: Okay, fine.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: [answers in French].
Question: I’m Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. In the numbers that you gave, and thanks for this briefing, I think Mr. Wimhurst you’d said neither police nor military, but civilian: 13 dead, 38 injured, 24 of whom were national or are national staff; and 160 missing. I’m just wondering, of the 13, I just wondered why you’re only providing a breakout in terms of national staff? Are they included in all of the figures? Initially here they weren’t really reported, they weren’t speaking on that. Can you say what the status is of checking on Haitians that work for the UN there in their homes and wherever else? Right.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Sure. I mean, in terms of injuries, we have a clear breakdown of who is being treated, Haitian national staff or international staff. In terms of bodies recovered, I can’t tell you, you know, who is who. We haven’t got that breakdown at the moment. I mean, you must understand, identification is not always as easy as it might appear, when bodies have been badly damaged in wreckage and rubble and so on. But, of course we do take into account the national staff, and our national staff offices are following up as best they can. Don’t forget communications are completely broken down. We can’t move around freely. So, it’s very difficult for us to check if national staff who had left for work; left work for that day because they knock off for work before the earthquake happened, they’d gone home, we have no way of checking if in their own homes they’re still alive or they’re injured or something else has happened to them. It’s an extremely difficult situation.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: For the UN staff, the UNDP has dispatched three teams to go house-by-house of our local personnel to check their whereabouts. And that effort has started already this morning. So, we will be in about 24 hours with the available information of how many people are still unaccounted for will be found, and we’ll be able to report on that.
Spokesperson: Matthew, lots of people want to put questions. I think it would be fair to pass it around a bit, okay? Philippe.
Question: Philippe, Le Monde. Hello, David. Could you tell us a bit more about the scene at the Christopher Hotel, the kind of rescue effort? Are the Brazilian peacekeepers still involved? Did the rescue team take over? Are they working around the clock? And also these rescue teams that arrived, are they also working as well all around the city or for now are they concentrating on the UN buildings?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Okay. Until the expert teams arrived, which was only yesterday, it was our brave Brazilian soldiers and Chinese FPU, other nationalities of soldiers -- Bolivians, Ecuadorians, Nepalese, Filipinos -- were all involved in trying to locate survivors in the wreckage of our headquarters. Don’t forget that they had little equipment of the sort that is really needed; heavy duty lifting equipment, and for those of you who don’t know our headquarters, the actual access to it is quite narrow. And we weren’t even able to bring in a large crane that we thought might be useful. So, the first phase was carefully using the tools we had at hand and exploring the whole of the wreckage. And then when the expert teams came in, with their knowledge, they started to be able to locate more precisely the areas where survivors can be found. Like using dogs and sounding equipment, and so on. And so, they have taken over. And they’re working around the clock. But, we still have our Brazilian and our other nationalities are helping them under guidance. But, the experts are now in the lead on this.
Question: Are they also, the expert teams, are they also working around the city or are they just concentrating on UN buildings?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: We have a team of French search and rescuers, and they’re working in the Montana Hotel, which is completely collapsed. And I understand that they have made three live rescues and recovered one body, to date.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: The Dominican Republic has sent in several search and rescue teams. They have been divided up, and they were at first helping with the Christopher Hotel, but, they’re moving now, and they have moved in fact to the city to help the other collapsed buildings around.
Question: [inaudible]….Can you tell us how the Estonian was found? Was he found with a dog? Was he found with electronic sensing? Do you know what team found him? Any details on that?
Spokesperson: This is Neil (?) from The New York Times.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: I’m sorry, I can’t really give you details of exactly what happens in the rescue operations, I don’t have that information.
Question: Joe Luria from the Wall Street Journal, David, like James, I’m very happy to see you alive. Was the Estonian Mr. Annabi’s body guard, and could you shed some light on how President Préval has said that Mr. Annabi is dead? Have you contacted his office, because the Secretary-General was unable reach the President? I want to know if the Estonian was his body guard as well.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: I can’t tell you what his duties were that day. He is a close personal protection officer, and he would have been assigned to either guard one of the principals, either the SRSG or the principal Deputy SRSG. On the other hand, he could have simply been off duty, and in the building. I mean, that’s not unusual either. So, I can’t tell you what he was doing. And the second part of the question was?
Question: About President Préval; how was it that he said that Mr. Annabi is dead and the Secretary-General can’t reach him to ask him about that?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Well, look, I mean, people jump to conclusions, and which is not surprising when you look at the hotel and the wreckage, it’s difficult to imagine how anybody could survive that, and yet our colleague did. But, for whatever reason, some people, including the President of Haiti, and others, highly placed, have drawn conclusions that really, you know, can only be confirmed when the process has completed its course, and we still don’t know, and we still can’t say what the fate is of some of our colleagues who are buried under the rubble.
Spokesperson: Okay, going right to the back here.
Question: [inaudible] First of all, where are you sitting now? The room around you is still in good shape, and second, do you have any estimate for casualties and fatalities in the country, or at least in the city? Do you believe that the number 100,000 people dead is an accurate number now or how long it will take you to have an accurate number or figure?
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: These are estimates that we have seen ourselves. We’re unable to confirm. But we’re starting a UN assessment as well of casualties, damages and requirements, as I mentioned earlier, as of today. The damages are so enormous. These figures do not surprise us, though. And as we drove around, we saw the bodies that were lying around the roads, along the roads and in the houses. So, we cannot confirm the figure, but we believe that it is a very large number.
Spokesperson: Okay, Mr. Abbadi.
Question: My hand always last. Thank you very much for this briefing. I have two questions: One, you mentioned three times that people are sleeping in the street, including, I suppose, children. Do they have blankets and what temperature is it in Haiti, in the capital at night? And second, the whole world is rushing toward rescuing and helping in this disaster. Who is in the lead as far as coordination is concerned? Is it the US? Is it the UN? Is it a combined effort or is it someone else? Thank you.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: The UN is coordinating all the humanitarian and rescue efforts. But we’re very grateful that, in a very short time, many of the partners of the UN system have moved in and sent teams in; specialized teams to help us out. But, definitely the UN has kept the management of the crisis under its mandate, and we’re issuing all the requirements that we need, and all the support that could make that job easier for us. We’re liaising closely with the government, as you understand, the government also has suffered enormous losses and collapsed facilities, buildings, so, the capacity of the public sector at this point in time to respond adequately is very limited. However, we seek and consult on all the policy decisions to be made, and the important orientation given by the government and in consultation with the government. On the other hand, the support of the NGOs, other donors have been absolutely fundamental for us to get additional equipment and means. Thank you.
Spokesperson: Yes. Wait, wait.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: On your question about the night temperature, and people sleeping in the streets with blankets, I’ve seen that some have blankets and covers and so on. They’ve been able to draw stuff out from their homes. Others are less well-equipped. The night time temperature, I guess is about 25 degrees centigrade, more or less; may be 24. It’s cool. It’s warm enough for me, but it’s cool for Haitians. Don’t forget this is the Haitian winter. For those of us from the North, it’s very pleasant. But not necessarily for Haitians.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: It’s humid too.
Question: I’m Ali Barada from Lebanon. What are the major needs you expect now from the UN headquarters here in New York? What are the major needs that you feel you need now from the UN headquarters in New York?
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: We have already received money to run the operations. We received, for example, from UNDP $400,000. We’re getting unblocked a number of emergency funds, so that we can cater for the immediate resources needed, so that we get organized and equip ourselves mainly to improve communications and IT systems. So far, we’re trying to get, for example the team organized. We’re camping in Log Base; we do not have adequate shelter facilities, for example, meeting rooms so that we can cater for the requirements of the other partners in the humanitarian area. However, we’re functional. We’re right now, at a limited level, functioning. And we have had a very quick reaction from New York for whatever we have asked. Doctors are coming our way. More human resources are being dispatched; we’re getting stress counsellors flown in today and tomorrow. So, we’re very grateful that help from New York has been forthcoming fairly quickly.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: We discussed this this morning with our colleagues in New York, and we take this on a day to day basis. But one of the things that we need is expert assistance in helping us manage all of the air traffic that’s coming in. Planes are coming down by the hour. It’s a relatively small airport and we need expertise in movement control and so on, to ensure that the planes, the loads are quickly off-loaded, the planes are properly, you know, parked or whatever. And that’s going to be, unless that’s controlled properly, we’re going to get bottle-necks very quickly. And so, we hope very much that we’ll get some help in that direction, and we’ve raised this issue with our colleagues in New York already.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: Right now, the US government has offered to help us in airport management for a short period of time, and this is very helpful.
Question: Is the UN running the airport now, basically, air traffic controllers, everybody, is UN personnel right now?
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: We’re managing, I think, we’re managing with the Haitians the running of the airport. Because I think the control tower went down in the earthquake.
Question: I’m Fabian Santas, French Public Radio. You said before that you had enough troops so far, and you were not really concerned about that. Do you know what would be the task of the more than 3,000 soldiers coming from the US? And just one more little question: How do you communicate with one another, and especially from a country to another one? Can you communicate and coordinate yet to know who is the most useful and where? (Inaudible)… in French, I’d really appreciate it.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Yeah, I mean, obviously we’d coordinate very closely our American colleagues, and this morning already our military Chief of Staff was discussing with one of their senior officers the way in which the work will be handled, and I don’t see there being any problem. And in fact it will be obviously more soldiers coming in to undertake humanitarian assistance, security and other tasks will relieve pressure. We still will be able to handle things, but it will make it easier because it’s an extremely stressful situation and people, civilians, police and military are working very long hours, unusually long hours with very poor, certainly on the civilian side, ability to rest and recover. So, I think that this additional help will be most useful, and everything will be coordinated. I can’t give you any details right now. They’re only just in the preliminary phase of discussing this, but we’ll keep you posted as events unfold.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: We have discussed with the Force Commander here of the need for additional escort, military escort, and the Force Commander has decided that, in case this is needed, he will redeploy troops positioned elsewhere in the country; for example from Gonaives down to Port-au-Prince to increase capacity. We understand, although we don’t have yet much information about outside of Port-au-Prince, we understand that Jacmel, the city in the south, is also affected, and is needing help. So we’re trying to deploy support there to Jacmel, as well. We heard that Gonaives is okay, and so is Cap-Haitien. These are the major urban centres. So, we think that the most urgent thing is to take care of Port-au-Prince, and then of Jacmel. As you know, MINUSTAH has troops deployed all over the country, and the armed forces are willing to pull back and reposition troops as necessary towards Port-au-Prince and Jacmel.
Spokesperson: David and Kim, it’s Martin. I’m conscious that there are a lot of questions here, but also that you have many things to do; not least on the relief side, to help the people. I’m going to suggest, maybe I won’t be popular here, but I’m going to suggest that we take another two questions. But contradict me, if you feel otherwise.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: For our side, that’s a very good suggestion, I think.
Spokesperson: Okay. All right, so…
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: Yes, I would have to leave now, I’m sorry. I would have to leave in five minutes; because I am going to fly over the city with the Minister of the Interior, who has been appointed in charge of humanitarian operations from the government.
Spokesperson: I think people are very appreciative here that you’ve found the time to brief them. And as I said, two questions, first of all, Evelyn.
Question: David, good to see you. Evelyn Leopold. You mentioned…
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Hi, Evelyn.
Question: You mentioned that you had rescue teams from France, the Dominican Republic; what countries were working in the Christopher Hotel for this special sensor and the special equipment?
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: French, Chinese and American.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Yeah, French, Chinese and American. We also have an American team, we have a French team and Chinese team.
Spokesperson: Okay, yes.
Question: Hi, I am Daniele from the UN Radio.
Spokesperson: Could you ask it in English as well?
Question: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m going to ask the question in English, but I kindly ask Kim to please answer in Portuguese, because she was the chief for UNDP there (in Brazil)for the past three years, and she has recently taken her post in Haiti, that’s why I’d like her to answer in Portuguese, please, and explain how is the mission working along with the peacekeepers to maintain the order there, and what is your prospective agenda for the next coming days there?
Spokesperson: And Kim, obviously could I ask you to repeat it in English, if you wouldn’t mind?
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: Yes. [Answers first in Portuguese and then in English.] I mentioned that we have agreed to cooperate on a continuous basis with the MINUSTAH military component. They have provided support to us; they have appointed two permanent members to sit in all the coordination meetings of the humanitarian family, so that they are able to provide logistics, security and escort to the work we’re carrying out, and to make sure that whenever we go out, even to the south, we get enough coverage so that we can maintain –peace and an orderly distribution of relief support. Thank you.
Spokesperson: Thank you. Thank you both again, and from here in New York we all send our very, very best wishes to you and all of your staff, and to the people of Haiti. Thank you very much.
Chief of Public Information for MINUSTAH, David Wimhurst: Thank you
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kim Bolduc: Thank you very much.
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For information media • not an official record
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