The headquarters of the UN stabilisation mission in Haiti was badly damaged in the major earthquake.
Fears for safety of UN mission staff
The headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti collapsed in Tuesday's earthquake and a large number of UN personnel are missing according to the UN peacekeeping chief. Alain Le Roy told reporters that UN troops, mostly from Brazil, were surrounding the wreckage of the five-story building trying to rescue people, but "as we speak no one has been rescued from this main headquarters." "The main building that was the headquarters building has collapsed," he said. "We know clearly it is a tragedy for Haiti, and a tragedy for the UN, and especially for the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti." "We know there will be casualties but we cannot give figures for the time being," Mr 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 the quake occurred a little after 5 pm local time and the UN does not know how many were still in the building, deputy peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet said. "For the moment, a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for," Le Roy said in an earlier statement. He told reporters that among the missing is Hedi Annabi, the head of the UN mission in Haiti who was in the building at the time of the quake. Mr Mulet, who was Mr Annabi's predecessor in the Haiti post, said the headquarters building, on the road from the city to the hillside district of Petionville, was constructed of reinforced concrete in the 1960s. It was previously the Christopher Hotel. Mr Le Roy said other UN installations in the impoverished Caribbean nation were also seriously damaged including the headquarters of the UN Development Program where many people were wounded. The UN logistical base near the airport and a UN hospital run by Argentine troops were damaged but not severely, and the hospital was receiving people hurt in the earthquake, Mr Mulet said. The UN officials said many other buildings in Port-au-Prince were also damaged including the National Cathedral, National Palace, national Parliament building and the Hotel Montana. Mr Le Roy, the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, said "contacts with the UN on the ground have been severely hampered as communications networks in Haiti have been disabled by the earthquake." The UN Peacekeeping Department is still in the process of gathering information on the extent of the damage and the status of UN personnel following the "catastrophic earthquake", he said in the statement. Susanna Malcorra, the undersecretary-general responsible for staffing and equipping U.N. field-based peace operations, said "all communications to Port-au-Prince are down" and the UN has only been able to contact the peacekeeping mission via satellite phones, which are also being used for operational purposes on the ground. "That's part of the reason why it's hard to have a full picture of the situation, plus the fact that it's night there," she said. Ms Malcorra told reporters that an assessment will be made early today of whether the airport in Port au Prince is fully operational. If it is not, relief supplies can be brought into the country from the neighboring Dominican Republic. Mr Le Roy said the United States, France and Canada are mobilising assistance to the quake victims and the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will meet this morning with top UN officials to coordinate the UN response. Mr Ban spoke by telephone late on Tuesday with the US Ambassador Susan Rice and "they agreed to closely coordinate rescue and assistance efforts with other international partners", UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said. In a statement earlier, Ban said, "My heart goes out to the people of Haiti after this devastating earthquake. At this time of tragedy, I am very concerned for the people of Haiti and also for the many United Nations staff who serve there. I am receiving initial reports and following developments closely." *AP
9,065 total uniformed personnel 7,031 troops 2,034 police 488 international civilian personnel 1,212 local civilian staff 214 United Nations Volunteers
Military personnel Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Jordan, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, United States and Uruguay. Police personnel Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Columbia, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Guinea, India, Jamaica, Jordan, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Togo, Turkey, United States, Uruguay and Yemen.
The mission was authorised by the UN Security Council in 2004 to try to bring about stability in Haiti after the president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in a rebellion by gangs and former soldiers. Known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the mission has supported democratic processes including elections, run programs to disarm armed groups and helped the Haitian police. Haiti has been led by the president Rene Preval since May 2006, when the country returned to constitutional rule.
Source: MINUSTAH website at http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/minustah/index.shtml *Reuters