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UN says quake has left 300,000 homeless

4 min

The UN mission in Haiti has said that an estimated 300,000 people have been left homeless by the devastating earthquake, with 1-in-10 homes in the capital Port-au-Prince destroyed.


AFP - An estimated 300,000 people have been left homeless in the devastation wrought by the unprecedented earthquake in Haiti, with one in 10 homes in the capital destroyed, the UN said on Friday.

A helicopter assessment by the UN mission in Haiti found that some areas around Port-au-Prince suffered "50 percent destruction," as aid workers struggled to rush help into the debris ridden area.

 "First estimates suggest some 10 percent of the housing in Port-au-Prince has been destroyed, which roughly translates to about 300,000 people left homeless," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Another UN body estimated that 30 percent of buildings had collapsed or been affected after the capital and surrounding areas were hit by an earthquake that had no historical precedent in the region.

"We're talking definitely about an earthquake which probably has a recurrence period of several hundred years," said Andrew Maskrey, a specialist at the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

An OCHA situation report said some 3.5 million people live in areas hit by "strong shaking" from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that flattened much of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince this week.

Besides Port-au-Prince, Jacmel -- a city on Haiti's south coast -- and Carrefour -- a nearby suburb closer to the epicentre -- were also affected and still largely unexplored, according to the UN

UN teams on the ground were urging countries to stop sending search and rescue teams into an aid bottleneck, but called for doctors and medical personnel to treat thousands of casualties suffering crush injuries or fractures.

"Seventeen teams are on the ground, six more are arriving," Byrs told journalists.

"Right now we don't need more disaster search and rescue teams, that would only clog the airport," she added.

An airbridge was being set up between Port-au-Prince's small airport and a hub at Santo Domingo in the neighbouring Dominican Republic to channel relief supplies and staff arriving from around the world, OCHA said.

"No more field hospitals are needed, the priority is for medical teams, nurses, surgeons for trauma and medicines," to cope with mounting casualty numbers as people reached care, Byrs added.

The World Health Organisation said eight hospitals or health facilities in the quake area had collapsed or were seriously damaged, while International Committee of the Red Cross staff found at least five other hospitals were still working.

The UN health agency was unable to give an estimate of casualties.

"The scale of this is a little bit unfathomable," said WHO spokesman Paul Garwood.

Charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it had treated 2,000 people for injuries suffered in the quake and thousands more were awaiting surgery in its hospitals

"Probably it will get worse before it gets better," said MSF's head in Haiti, Stefano Zannini.

The World Food Programme was lining up emergency food rations for two million people hit by the quake, initially to last at least 30 days.

"People are unable to cook so they need ready-to-eat meals," said WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella.

Twenty countries, organisations and companies have pledged 268.5 million dollars (186.3 million euros) in aid for victims of the devastating earthquake, OCHA data showed.

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said in New York that a 560 million dollar aid appeal was being lined up.

Thousands of international aid workers already stationed in the impoverished and aid-dependent Caribbean country -- including 300 Cuban doctors -- switched to emergency disaster relief.

"Getting physically tonnes and tonnes of equipments, of food and water (around) is not as instant as Twitter or Skype or 24-hour satellite news," Casella said, underlining the scale of the destruction.



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