Haitian President Rene Preval said estimates of the death toll in
the devastating earthquake in capital Port-au- Prince could easily
be in the tens of thousands, while other officials said more than
100,000 may have perished.
“Up to now I’ve heard 50,000, I’ve heard 30,000. Let’s say, it’s too
early to give a number,” Preval told broadcaster CNN, conceding that
any sort of official estimate was extremely difficult. “I am still
trying to understand myself the magnitude of the event.”
Earlier, he had told The Miami Herald that thousands may have been
killed in the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that rocked the country
Tuesday afternoon, and issued an appeal for world assistance. The
damage was centred in and around the capital Port-au-Prince, home to
about 1.9 million people.
Figures for the number of dead remain murky as the government tries
to assess the damage.
Speaking on CNN, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said: “I believe
that we are well over 100,000″ dead, based on the number of
buildings that have collapsed.
The UN mission in Haiti said Wednesday that the country suffered
“massive and broad” destruction from the devastating earthquakes
which may result in large number of casualties.
Fifty to 100 UN staff remained unaccounted for a day after the
earthquake, said Vicznezo Pugliese, spokesman for the UN
Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Separate reports say the
dead included soldiers from Brazil, China and Jordan.
The end death toll could amount to the largest number of deaths ever
for any UN single mission. UN officials warned that the situation
remained fluid because the quake and its aftershocks had cut off
communication lines between UN headquarters in New York and the
mission in Haiti.
Pugliese said hotels, hospitals, schools and the national prison in
Port-au-Prince all suffered extensive damage. Electricity was
interrupted and water was in short supply.
“Casualties, which are vast, can only be estimated,” Pugliese said
in a statement made available at UN headquarters in New York.
The missing staff had worked in the main MINUSTAH office, a
six-storey concrete building which collapsed. Normally, between 200
and 250 UN staff worked in the main office building but many may
have left before the quakes struck.
Ten other staff were still unaccounted for who worked for UN
agencies like the UN Development Programme, some of whom were in
Hundreds of thousands of Haitians slept in the streets Tuesday night
after the earthquake struck, fearful that their houses would
collapse. UN soldiers and police patrolled Port-au-Prince since the
earthquake to maintain order and security.
The UN Security Council held a minute of silence before it met
Wednesday and issued a statement expressing “deepest sympathy and
solidarity” to Haitians killed or affected by the catastrophe.
The 15-nation council also voiced support for the government of
Haiti and called on UN members to assist the country in rescuing the
John Holmes, the top UN coordinator for humanitarian emergency, said
there was no “reliable information at the moment”.
The earthquake with magnitude of 7 on the Richter scale struck the
impoverished Caribbean nation Tuesday right before 5 p.m. local
Holmes said a Chinese search and rescue team had arrived in
Port-au-Prince. There are 119 Chinese police in the UN mission in
Haiti. Taiwan was sending 55 rescue workers and two
search-and-rescue dogs, Taiwan officials said earlier Wednesday.
US and other country rescue teams were scheduled to reach Haiti in