Haiti

RESCUERS STILL FINDING SURVIVORS IN HAITI

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(Port-au-Prince/New York, 17 January 2010): Urban search-and-rescue (USAR) teams from around the world continue working around the clock in difficult and challenging conditions to find survivors trapped underneath the rubble following Tuesday's earthquake, which devastated Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince.

More than 70 people have been found alive, which is a record number for USAR operations after an earthquake. Forty-three international USAR teams, comprising 1,739 rescue workers and 161 dogs, are working on the ground around the clock, and under extremely difficult and challenging conditions.

"We haven't given up hope of finding more survivors today. Even six days later, it is still possible that we might be able to find more people alive," said Jesper Lund, head of the international USAR operations in Haiti. "The USAR teams won't stop searching as long as there is still hope of finding survivors alive. The teams' morale is very high, and despite the hardships and punishing pace they remain steadfast since people have been rescued out of the rubble. The Government has said in a statement that operations will continue as long as the population feels there is hope."

The highly specialized USAR teams were the first people to arrive in Haiti following the earthquake. They brought tons of heavy rescue equipment to penetrate through thick concrete, as well as acoustic, seismic and optical fiberscope search devices to locate trapped survivors, and medical and surgical equipment. Approximately 60 percent of the worst-affected areas and surrounding communities in Port-au-Prince have now been searched.

The teams are from several countries - some have travelled from as far as Asia. Many are members of the UN International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), and are operating based on the INSARAG guidelines to ensure a smooth, well-coordinated response. The UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team is coordinating the teams from its operation centre at the airport.

"Every second counts," Mr. Lund said. "Search-and-rescue teams did not find any survivors after the earthquake in Indonesia last September, so this really is an extraordinary result. In this earthquake, buildings that collapsed had sufficient void spaces that allowed for trapped victims to remain alive. Also, the high degree of cooperation between the teams, the local authorities and the community, and their willingness to support each other, ensured greater synergy and response. That made the difference."

Fuel shortages are adding to the challenges of working in an environment where the roads are seriously clogged with debris, and there is a lack of communications and available transport. Even once a survivor is rescued, there are no ambulances to transport survivors to hospitals. Despite this, the number of rescued people continues to rise, providing hope for a country that is still numb with shock.

On Friday 15 January, the Emergency Relief Coordinator launched the Flash Appeal for Haiti for US$575 million, to assist an estimated 3 million severely affected people over six months. It includes the projects of 12 non-governmental organizations (NGOs, 16 United Nations organizations and the International Organization for Migration.

For further information, please call: OCHA-New York: Stephanie Bunker, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 347 244 2106, bunker@un.org; John Nyaga + 1 917 367 9262, mobile +1 917 318 8917, nyagaj@un.org

OCHA-Geneva: Elisabeth Byrs +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570, byrs@un.org; OCHA Haiti: Nicholas Reader, +88 16 314 575 76, reader@un.org

OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or www.reliefweb.int

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.