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16 Jan, 2010 03:32

Russia supports Haitians after deadly earthquake

Russian emergency workers rescued two survivors from the rubble on Friday after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti on January 12.

“They [survivors] are a woman and a man of about 50 years old,” rescuer Yuri Maslov was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

"Locals told us they heard a sound coming from a collapsed house. We cleared up the debris and found two people underneath. According to the preliminary information, these people have numerous bone fractures. They were rushed to a Port-au-Prince hospital. Despite the severe injuries, the rescued people are in stable condition,” he added.

Russian rescue workers say that many local residents approach them and ask to check their destroyed houses. “We always respond to all requests, therefore we are going to work until late at night,” Maslov said.

50% of buildings damaged or destroyed – UN

Despite a 30 degree Celsius heat people remain in the streets, RIA Novosti news agency reported. “Some are afraid to go back to their houses, others have no where to return to,” said a local resident.

According to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, up to 50 per cent of the buildings in the Haitian capital have been damaged or destroyed, AP news agency reported.

The United Nations and its partners has appealed for US$562 million in assistance for the victims of the earthquake. According to various reports, the death toll may reach 50,000 to 140,000 people.

UN Secretary General spokesperson Ari Gaitanis said that despite many challenges, rescuers are making progress.

“We have already had an air bridge set up to deliver supplies there. The airport is working to some extent, but the sea port has been destroyed – you cannot use that,” Gaitanis said.

“As far as the airport itself, it is heavily loaded because so many planes are trying to arrive and the air tower has been destroyed. Things are difficult and very, very trying and challenging, but we are making progress,” he added.

Striving to help Haiti

Four planes from Russia’s Emergency Ministry carrying rescue workers and equipment landed in Haiti earlier on Friday.

On Wednesday Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the head of Russia’s Emergency Ministry, Sergey Shoigu, to help those affected by the disastrous quake in Haiti.

Heavy lifting gear necessary for rescuing those buried under the rubble has arrived to the island, as well as a light helicopter for air raid support.

Earlier Russian operatives, doctors, psychologists and dog specialists arrived in the area that was hit on January 12 by the strongest earthquake in the region in more than two centuries.

“Now we are focusing on saving those who are still alive. We know that in the initial hours people die from trauma and in hot climates they die as a result of dehydration,” said Andrey Legoshin of the Russian Interior Ministry.

“Mainly, we are searching with dogs who can find people 10 metres below the surface. Also, we are establishing hospitals and delivering aid, because we know there are shortages of food and water,” he added.

Right now one of the main problems on the island is burial of the dead. Corpses piled randomly on the streets of Port-au-Prince are beginning to decompose.

"It's beyond description. The disaster, the damage, is just so overwhelming," said Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in Haiti. "Everyone has a scarf or something, because the smell is unbearable… You literally have bodies all over the place."

The Red Cross has promised to send 3,000 body bags to the island.

Currently the Russian Emergency Ministry is working on a plan to use Russian air groups to transfer any type of aid from different countries to Haiti.

Reportedly, it will use three main air corridors – European, Latin American and Caribbean.

Meanwhile organizations like the UN Food Program and the Red Cross are engaged in large-scale rescue efforts on the ground.

The UN has donated $10 million in emergency relief to earthquake-ravaged Haiti while the World Bank pledged a further $100 million.

American celebrities have also set up campaigns to gather money for aid. Golfer Tiger Woods has pledged $3 million to Wyclef Jean’s Yele Foundation that will go towards creating a mobile hospital.

The UK government will contribute $10 million in aid and the British Queen has made her own private donation to the British Disasters Emergency Committee, which is working in Haiti.

Equipped rescue teams made up of 70 people and dogs have also been sent from the UK to the devastated region.

Italy’s Interior Ministry is sending €1 million (more than $1,4 million) to Haiti, and the Italian Episcopal Conference has also gathered €2 million (about $3 million) to help victims of the earthquake.

Moderate quake hits Venezuela

Meanwhile, another quake has recently shaken eastern Venezuela, AP news agency reported. The agency quoted the country’s officials as saying that there have been no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The Venezuelan seismological agency said that the quake, which occurred at 1:30 p.m. (18.00 GMT) near the town of Carupano, measured a magnitude 5.4.

Read also – US Troops Occupy Haiti, Cancel Humanitarian Aid from Russia