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The Age (Australia)

Haitian Quake Toll Could Hit 300,000

Rory Carroll, Port-au-Prince

A UN truck dumps bodies at a makeshift graveyard, in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince January 17, 2010. (REUTERS/Ana-Bianca Marin)

The Haitian Government has raised the confirmed earthquake death toll to 150,000 and said the figure could double as reports from outside the capital are collated.

As international donors were preparing to meet overnight in Montreal to discuss rebuilding Haiti, aid agencies said food, water and basic supplies were reaching more people but clinics were also starting to see more infections and complications from amateur medical treatment.

The confirmed death toll in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area alone had topped 150,000, said the Communications Minister, and more bodies remained uncounted. Corpses are still visible in the rubble in neighbourhoods such as Petionville, Gressier, Carrefour and downtown.

The Government's latest death toll was based on data from CNE, a state company that has collected and buried corpses in mass graves in Port-au-Prince and in a wasteland outside the capital.

It was a sharp spike from Saturday when the UN said the Government had confirmed 111,481 bodies. Before Sunday's statement, authorities had estimated a total of 200,000 dead from the 7.0-magnitude quake on January 12. Up to 3 million people are estimated to need aid.

The US military expanded its role when a convoy of Humvees, accompanied by Brazilian UN troops, delivered food packs and water to Cite Soleil, the capital's most notorious slum.

''The aid we have available is being pushed out,'' said Lieutenant-General Ken Keen, commander of US military operations in Haiti. ''But the need is tremendous.''

The UN appealed for more troops to be sent in as police struggled to control fresh outbreaks of looting in the devastated capital while a new aftershock rocked the stricken country.

With 13,000 personnel in Haiti and on ships offshore, the US military has overtaken the UN's peacekeeping mission's capacity. Last Friday it obtained broad authority to control air and sea ports and secure roads to support relief efforts.

Ministers from 11 countries were due to meet in Montreal to co-ordinate international aid to Haiti.

The first high-powered gathering since the earthquake struck would work towards a ''clear, common vision'' of how to rebuild the country, said Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon. There have been calls for a ''Marshall Plan for Haiti'' from some experts on the region, and warnings that the US alone would have to contribute $US5 billion ($A5.5 billion) over the next few years to stabilise its troubled neighbour.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was expected to attend the meeting with other officials including Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and the British head of the United Nations Development Program, John Holmes.

Officials said that ideas on the table would include relocating the capital, which lies close to a fault line and is in ruins.

Cuba's Fidel Castro joined a chorus of leftist Latin leaders who have accused the US of ''occupying'' Haiti under an aid banner. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said: ''Obama, send vaccinations, kid, send vaccinations. Each soldier that you send there should carry a medical kit instead of hand grenades and machine-guns.''


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