The devastating earthquake that struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Tuesday has cost hundreds of Haitian lives, based on reports so far, and destroyed thousands of homes and much of the basic infrastructure of the capital city. But it may also have killed some of the most experienced aid workers in the impoverished country, which could slow assistance efforts in the days ahead.
Speaking late Wednesday morning, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the organization's chief representative in Haiti, Hédi Annabi, and Mr. Annabi's deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa remain unaccounted for since the UN headquarters at the Christopher Hotel were destroyed yesterday. France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Annabi had been killed, but the UN said that has not been confirmed.
"The UN headquarters at the Christopher Hotel collapsed in the quake. Many people are still trapped inside," Mr. Ban said. "Minustah troops have been working through the night to reach those trapped under the rubble. So far, several badly injured casualties have been retrieved and transported to the Minustah logistics base, which thankfully remains intact." Minustah is the acronym for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti.
Mr. Annabi, a Tunisian national, was meeting with a delegation of Chinese officials in the Christopher Hotel at the time the earthquake struck. The Chinese officials were still missing in the early afternoon.
A massive aid effort for Haiti is currently gearing up, with Brazilian Air Force planes scheduled to land in Port-au-Prince with food and medical supplies later this afternoon. US President Barack Obama promised swift US action to deliver aid to the stricken capital.
"It is now clear that the earthquake has had a devastating impact on the capital, Port-au-Prince,'' Ban said. "The remaining areas of Haiti appear to be largely unaffected."
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