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French foreign minister pledges aid in school collapse

A grade school in a Port-au-Prince shanty suburb collapsed on Friday, killing at least 50 people. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has promised to send a team to Haiti "as soon as possible" to help rescue those still buried.

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French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner expressed his "deep emotion" and promised aid after a school in a Haitian shantytown collapsed Friday leaving some 50 people dead.

Kouchner said in a statement: "At the request of the Haitian authorities, France is preparing to send as soon as possible a civil security team to help the Haitian authorities in rescuing the victims who are still buried."

About 50 schoolchildren and teachers were killed when the grade school packed with hundreds of students collapsed during classes Friday, a government official said.

The three-story La Promesse (The Promise) school in Petion-ville, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, caved in in a heap of cement slabs and twisted steel rods at about 10:00 am (1500 GMT) Friday, trapping scores inside.

"We have counted about 50 dead for the moment, and around 85 injured," said Nadia Lochard of the civil protection bureau.

"But there are still numerous children stuck in the rubble. We have signs that they are still alive and we are organizing help to try to save them," she said.

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