UN says 5 killed in headquarters collapse in Haiti quake; 100 missing including mission chief

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UN: fewer than 5 killed in Haiti HQ, 100 missing

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. says more than 100 people are missing in the rubble of the collapsed U.N. headquarters building in Haiti, including the mission chief.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said Wednesday that about 10 people have been pulled out, many badly injured and “less than five” are confirmed dead.

Le Roy told reporters an assessment of the main airport in the capital, Port au Prince, found that it is “fully operational” and planes will be flying in Wednesday with aid.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for massive aid for Haiti and announced that the United Nations is releasing $10 million from its emergency funds.

He said the “catastrophic earthquake” has done major damage to buildings and infrastructure and the death toll “may be in the hundreds or even thousands.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The headquarters for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti collapsed in the massive earthquake, and France’s foreign minister said Wednesday that everyone inside appears to have been killed, including the head of the country’s U.N. mission.

At least seven peacekeepers were reported dead, and scores of others were injured or missing.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told two French radio stations that everyone in the U.N. building, including mission head Hedi Annabi, appears to have died in the earthquake. He said his information had come from the French ambassador in Haiti.

Kouchner said on RFI radio Wednesday that the ambassador had visited the devastated U.N. headquarters building in Port-au-Prince and said “everyone who was in the building is apparently dead,” including Annabi, a Tunisian diplomat.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy earlier confirmed that Annabi was in the building at the time of the 7.0-magnitude quake.

U.N. troops, mostly from Brazil, were trying to rescue people from the wreckage of the five-story building, Le Roy told reporters, but “as we speak no one has been rescued from this main headquarters.”

“There will be casualties, but we cannot give figures for the time being,” Le Roy said.

Between 200 and 250 people normally work at the peacekeeping headquarters, located on the road from the city to the hillside district of Petionville, but it is unclear how many were in the building when the quake hit a little after 5 p.m. local time, deputy peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet said.

At least four Brazilian soldiers were killed and five injured, Brazil’s army said. Jordan’s official news agency said three of its peacekeepers were killed and 21 were injured. A state newspaper in China said eight Chinese peacekeepers were known dead and 10 were missing — though officials later said the information was not confirmed.

Mulet, who was Annabi’s predecessor in the Haiti post, said the U.N. headquarters building had been constructed in the 1960s with reinforced concrete, and was previously the Christopher Hotel.

Other U.N. installations in Haiti were also seriously damaged, Le Roy said, including the headquarters of the U.N. Development Program, where many people were wounded.

The U.N.’s entire Haitian mission includes 7,000 peacekeeping troops, 2,000 international police, 490 international civilian staffers, 1,200 local civilian staffers and 200 U.N. Volunteers, Le Roy said.

The force was brought in after a bloody 2004 rebellion following decades of violence and poverty in the nation.

Associated Press Writer Perrine Latrasse contributed to this story from Paris.

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