‘Tens of thousands’ feared killed in Haiti quake

Witnesses reported that many buildings had collapsed in the quake-AFP

Haitian President Rene Preval has said estimates of the death toll in the devastating earthquake in capital Port-au-Prince could easily be in the tens of thousands, while other officials said more than 100,000 may have perished.

“Up to now I’ve heard 50,000, I’ve heard 30,000. Let’s say, it’s too early to give a number,” Preval told broadcaster CNN, conceding that any sort of official estimate was extremely difficult. “I am still trying to understand myself the magnitude of the event.”

The Caribbean nation of nine million is the poorest country in the Americas with an annual per-capita income of $560. It ranks 146th out of 177 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index More than half the population lives on less than $1 a day and 78 per cent on less than $2. There is a high infant mortality rate and the prevalence of HIV among those between ages 15 and 49 is 2.2 per cent Haiti's infrastructure is close to total collapse and severe deforestation has left only two per cent of forest cover About 9,000 UN police and troops are stationed in the country to maintain order

Earlier, he had told The Miami Herald that thousands may have been killed in the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that rocked the country on Tuesday afternoon, and issued an appeal for world assistance. The damage was centred in and around the capital Port-au-Prince, home to about 1.9 million people.

Figures for the number of dead remain murky as the government tries to assess the damage.

Speaking on CNN, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has said he believed “well over 100,000” died, based on the number of buildings that have collapsed. The Haitian ambassador to the US, Raymond Joseph, estimated 100,000 people dead or missing.

The Haitian ambassador to the Organization of American States Wednesday said he refused to accept estimates by other Haitian officials that 100,000 people may have died in the Haitian earthquake.

“I want to be optimistic,” Duly Brutus said at a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) briefing about the Haitian crisis. “I refuse to accept that we have more than 30,000 dead.

Addressing the emerging photos of long lines of dead bodies in the streets of Haiti, PAHO deputy director Jon Andrus pleaded that there not be a rush to bury the dead too quickly before they are identified and families can be contacted.

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