Haiti

Secretary-General touches down in quake-devastated Haiti

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Haiti, which was struck by a catastrophic earthquake on Tuesday, to show his solidarity with the people of the impoverished Caribbean nation and assess for himself the scale of the devastation.

The 7.0 magnitude tremors on 12 January are said to have affected one third of Haiti's population of 9 million, and the United Nations estimates that 10 per cent of the buildings in the hardest-hit city, the capital, Port-au-Prince, have been destroyed, leaving 300,000 people homeless.

Upon touching down in Port-au-Prince, Mr. Ban, who will take an aerial tour of the city, met with President René Préval and had an emotional reunion with Michele Montas, his former spokersperson who was in Haiti at the time of the tremors. [Watch video]

In a meeting with Haitian UN staff members on Friday, the Secretary-General underscored that "all of us, all colleagues and the whole world, are standing behind you and trying to share this difficult moment with all of you."

International urban search-and-rescue teams continue to work around the clock to find survivors trapped underneath the rubble.

More than 70 people have been found alive, a record number for these operations following tremors. More than 40 teams, comprising over 1,700 rescue workers and 161 dogs, are working tirelessly under extremely difficult and challenging conditions.

Last night, the Secretary-General announced with deep sadness tonight that the top UN officials in Haiti perished in Tuesday's tremors.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban paid tribute to his Special Representative to Haiti, Hédi Annabi, as well as his Deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa and Acting Police Commissioner Doug Coates of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"In every sense of the word, they gave their lives for peace," he said.

"Our hearts are with them, the families and friends of Hédi, Luiz, Doug and the many other UN heroes who gave their lives for Haiti and for the highest ideals of the United Nations," Mr. Ban said.

The world body's headquarters in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, were situated in the Christopher Hotel, which collapsed. Other buildings housing UN offices also sustained extensive damage.

On Friday, The UN and its partners launched an appeal on Friday for nearly $600 million to help the victims of the earthquake, which has left basic services on the brink of collapse in Port-au-Prince.

The funds are intended to assist an estimated 3 million affected people over a period of six months, with half of the funds being earmarked for emergency food aid, with the rest targeted at health, water, sanitation, nutrition, early recovery, emergency education and other key needs.