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Mon 18 Jan 2010 12:10 PM

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Arab aid speeds to quake hit Haiti

Three million people stranded in quake area; tents, medicines and food dispatched from Mideast.

Arab aid speeds to quake hit Haiti
DESPERATE PLIGHT: A crowd of Haitians wait to receive food and supplies from UN peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince. (Getty Images)

Arab countries have flocked to join the global aid effort for the survivors of the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti which may have killed more than 100,000 people.

As the full extent of the quake that has destroyed much of the country became clear, planes loaded with tents, food and other emergency supplies were dispatched from the Middle East to support the estimated three million people stranded in the quake area.

A team from the UAE’s Red Crescent Authority (RCA) is expected to land in the neighbouring Dominican Republic on Tuesday, armed with $500,000 to buy food supplies for survivors. The charity has already dispatched relief items on two planes.

Some 50 tonnes of emergency supplies are also on track to arrive on February 19, funded by the UAE’s Khalifa Bin Zayed Charity Foundation.

“This is the initial response and we are currently in communication with seven international relief organisations to further extend our assistance,” Khalil Mohamed, a spokesperson for the charity, told IRIN, a unit of the United Nations.

Kuwait has donated an initial $1m to the relief efforts, to be delivered through the country’s Red Crescent Society (KRCS).

“We prepared 100 tonnes of relief items - which include food, medical supplies, tents, blankets and food items - and are waiting to assign a plane that will carry them," Yousef Al Me'raj, head of KRCS' disasters department, said.

Qatar has mobilised a 26-man rescue team comprising soldiers, police and medics, in addition to 50 tonnes of aid, and plans to donate emergency supplies in the coming days.

Aid agencies on the ground in Haiti have described the situation as desperate. The epicenter of the earthquake struck just ten miles from the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, destroying hundreds of buildings. Some desperate Haitians have begun looting shops in the downtown district, prompting police to break up the crowd with gunfire, killing at least one man.

“There are many, many people trapped in the rubble,” said Paul Conneally, spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. “We're not optimistic at the moment.”

Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, described the tremor as "catastrophic" and urged the international community "to come to Haiti's aid in this hour of need".

Some 70,000 bodies have been buried in mass graves and a state of emergency has been declared until the end of January, the Haiti government said.

The Middle East’s poorer, oil-less countries have been quick to join the region’s sweeping aid drive. In Jordan, a Royal Air Force plane carrying a mobile field hospital and six tonnes of food, medicine and clothing was dispatched to the quake zone on January 14. Lebanon has dispatched a plane loaded with 25 tonnes of tents and three tonnes of medicines, vaccines and other supplies, which is expected to arrive on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, has yet to announce its contribution to aid efforts, but has sent a message of condolence to Haitian President René Préval.

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