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Haiti: Up to 200,000 Feared Dead


About 40,000 bodies have already been buried in mass graves. If the casualty figures are accurate, Tuesday's temblor would be one of the 10 deadliest earthquakes ever recorded. (AFP photo)

Up to 200,000 people are feared dead as a result of the 7.0
magnitude earthquake that has destroyed much of the Haitian capital
Port-au-Prince, officials in the Caribbean country say.

Lorries piled with corpses have been trying to collect the bodies
that have been visible on the streets across Port-au-Prince for burial
in mass graves outside the city.

"We have already collected
around 50,000 dead bodies," Paul Antoine Bien-Aime, Haiti's interior
minister, told the Reuters news agency on Friday.

"We anticipate there will be between 100,00 and 200,000 dead in total, although we will never know the exact number."

If the casualty figures are accurate, Tuesday's temblor would be one of the 10 deadliest earthquakes ever recorded.

40,000 dead have already been buried, while the bodies of another 2,000
victims have been incinerated at one of Port-au-Prince's rubbish dumps.

Thousands more people are believed to be under the rubble of the buildings that were toppled in the quake.

Larsen, the country's health minister, said that the devastation was
such that three-quarters of Port-au-Prince would have to be rebuilt.

Waiting for aid The
estimated 300,000 people made homeless by the quake, spent a fourth
night sleeping on the streets on Friday, along with many others who
fear returning to their homes in case of further collapses.

and ships have arrived with rescue teams, search dogs, tents, water
purification units, food, doctors and telecom teams, but face problems
unloading the supplies and getting them into the city. 


The UN said that up to 90 per cent of the buildings in Leogane, a town to the west of Port-au-Prince, had been damaged.

"According to the local police, between 5,000 to 10,000 people have
been killed and most bodies are still in the collapsed buildings,"
Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Co-ordination
of Humanitarian Affairs, said.

Between 40 and 50 per cent of the towns of Carrefour and Gressier were also destroyed, the UN assessment team said.

"Search and rescue teams are in these areas," Byrs said, stressing that there was an "urgent need for medical care".

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said he would travel to Haiti "very soon" to see the situation for himself.

"We are still in the search and rescue phase and we are trying to save as many lives as possible," he said.

"Our major humanitarian effort is well under way. Although it is
inevitably slow and more difficult than any of us would wish, we are
mobilising all resources as fast as we possibly can."

In an
attempt to address some of the problems facing aid delivery, the US
was given on Friday "senior airfield authority" of Haiti's main airport
under an agreement between the state department and the Haitian

Lieutenant-General Philip Breedlove, the US air
force deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements,
said on Friday that the agreement is in effect for the next 72 hours.


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The agreement means the US will "schedule and control" flights in
and out of the airport, deciding what planes can land and in what order.

Aid flights have been arriving at the airport faster than ground
crews can unload them, prompting aviation authorities to restrict
non-military flights for fear jets would run out of fuel while waiting
to land.

Aid arrives

The USS Carl Vinson,
with 19 helicopters onboard, also arrived off Haiti on Friday, opening
a second significant channel to deliver help. The helicopters
immediately began ferrying water and other supplies into Haiti. 

first supply ship also reached Port-au-Prince's severely damaged port
bringing a cargo of bananas and coal from the town of Jeremie, about
200km away. 


The US plans to send 10,000 US troops to Haiti to help distribute
aid and prevent potential rioting among survivors, Mike Mullin, the
chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said.

In a joint news conference at the Pentagon with Mullen, Robert
Gates, the US defence secretary, said the primary goal is to distribute
aid as quickly as possible "so that people don't, in their desperation,
turn to violence".

Governments across the world have poured relief supplies and medical teams into Haiti.

But huge logistical hurdles and the sheer scale of the
destruction have meant people are increasingly frustrated at the lack
of help.

"There have been some incidents where people were looting or
fighting for food," Alain Le Roy, UN undersecretary general for
peacekeeping, told The PBS NewsHour.

"They are desperate, they have been three days without food or any assistance.     

have to make sure that the situation doesn't unravel but for that we
need very much to ensure that the assistance is coming as quickly as
possible so that the people who are dying for food and medicine get
them as soon as possible."

'Extraordinary devastation'

Obama, the US president, said the earthquake had inflicted
"heart-breaking" losses and pledged Washington would do what it takes
to save lives and get the country back on its feet.

"The scale of the devastation is extraordinary ... and the losses are heartbreaking," he said.

Obama also urged patience with the relief operation, saying there would be "many difficult days ahead".

Clinton, the US secretary of state, will travel to Haiti on Saturday to
meet Rene Preval, the country's president, and other local officials.

is working out of a police station near the airport after the
presidential palace was destroyed, along with several government

"The government has lost its capacity to function properly, but it has not collapsed," he said.

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