Tuesday, January 12, 2010

World gears up to help quake-stricken Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE: The United States, France, Canada and governments across Latin America were gearing up Tuesday to help Haiti, after a massive 7.0 earthquake leveled buildings and caused an unknown number of casualties.

US President Barack Obama said his government stood "ready to assist the people of Haiti," as the State Department, USAID and United States Southern Command mobilized, the White House said, "to coordinate an assessment and any such assistance."

In Paris, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said France "expresses its complete solidarity" with Haiti, adding that his ministry's crisis center had begun working "to mobilize and dispatch without delay urgent aid to Port-au-Prince."

Canada, which hosts an 80,000-strong Haitian community, said it was "deeply concerned" with events unfolding in Haiti. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Canadian officials "are making contact with trusted humanitarian partners with a presence in the region to identify humanitarian needs resulting from this earthquake."

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he was "very concerned" with the situation in Haiti, including the fate of some 1,200 Brazilian members of the 7,000-strong UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, which Brazil leads.

In Bogota, the president's office said Colombia was "under alert and ready to respond to the Haitian authorities' call for help," adding that the defense ministry and emergency management services were coordinating upcoming assistance efforts.

Venezuela said it would send a 50-member "humanitarian assistance team" to Haiti in the next few hours. In Panama, the country's Vice President Juan Carlos Varela pledged that his government would provide assistance to the United Nations's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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