Earthquake in Haiti - Red Cross action

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An earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale struck Haiti early Wednesday morning (NZ time), inflicting severe devastation in the capital Port-au-Prince and Haiti's West Province. More than 20 aftershocks have been felt, wreaking more destruction.

Government buildings have collapsed including the Presidential palace. The Haitian National Red Cross headquarters and United Nations buildings have sustained damage. However other buildings housing International Red Cross staff in Delmas are still standing.

Although there are no official figures for the numbers of deaths, injured, homeless, or the extent of the damage, as many as three million people could potentially have been affected by this massive earthquake.

The most urgent needs remain search and rescue, emergency health care, clean water, emergency shelter, logistics and telecommunications.

Red Cross volunteers in Haiti are assisting the injured and homeless. The Haitian Red Cross' stocks of emergency items are being used to assist earthquake survivors. Additional Red Cross disaster response supplies, for 10,000 families, including kitchen kits, personal hygiene articles, blankets and tarpaulins are being dispatched from Panama immediately.

International Red Cross disaster response specialists including experts in relief coordination, health in emergencies, telecommunications, water and sanitation, logistics, and shelter are expected to arrive in Haiti on Friday (NZ time). A Red Cross field hospital will also be established that will be able to treat 50 patients at a time. A special flight carrying 40 tonnes of medical supplies and body bags has also been sent into Haiti from Geneva.

New Zealand Red Cross are engaged in ongoing discussions with the International Red Cross regarding the response to the devastating earthquake and will immediately send any personnel or equipment if requested.

New Zealand Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal to support those affected by the earthquake. The Haitian Earthquake Appeal will raise money in response to a request from the International Red Cross for funding support. New Zealand Red Cross has released $50,000 from its disaster response emergency fund to support the appeal.

People can donate to the appeal by:

* Making a secure online donation at www.redcross.org.nz by clicking here

* Sending cheques (made payable to New Zealand Red Cross), to the Haitian Earthquake Appeal, Red Cross House, P O Box 12140, Wellington, 6144

* Making a donation at any New Zealand Red Cross office throughout the country

New Zealand Red Cross guarantees that 100 percent of all donations we receive will go directly to the appeal. In the event that more money than can reasonably and efficiently spent is raised during the appeal, any surplus funds will be used by New Zealand Red Cross to prepare and respond to other humanitarian disasters or emergencies either internationally or here in New Zealand.

New Zealand Red Cross is only able to accept financial donations. Offers of voluntary assistance and goods are not immediately helpful in this disaster response situation. While well meaning, additional people and unsolicited goods can create more burden for an already strained infrastructure in the affected country.