Minister says more Canadian casualties expected in Haitian earthquake

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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OTTAWA - With three Canadians confirmed dead and at least three others missing in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says he expects more casualties will be reported.
The first 100 Canadian evacuees, already in the neighbouring Dominican Republic, were to arrive in Montreal on Thursday evening. Evacuations will continue as long as needed.
"Those people who are injured, who need medical assistance, will be the first to leave," Cannon told a news conference Thursday.
"We are deeply saddened by reports of Canadian casualties as a result of the earthquake in Haiti. Unfortunately, the reality in the aftermath of the catastrophic events is that we expect more casualties to be reported as search-and-rescue operations unfold."
About 100 Canadians are seeking refuge at the Canadian embassy compound in Port-au-Prince, while 48 more are being assisted by Canadian officials in the earthquake zone.
Two Canadian warships bearing humanitarian aid were to leave later Thursday, while two aircraft - a large C-17 and a smaller Hercules - were already on their way, said Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
A reconnaissance unit from the military's Disaster Assistance Response Team, along with a team of federal officials, are in Haiti conducting assessments prior to deployment of the team's full contingent and a broader distribution of relief.
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Ottawa will match contributions in support of humanitarian and recovery efforts by individual Canadians to eligible charitable organizations between Jan. 12 and Feb. 12, up to a total of $50 million.
The Canadian International Development Agency will allocate these funds to Canadian and international humanitarian and development organizations.
An Ontario nurse and a couple from Montreal are confirmed to be among the tens of thousands of dead in Haiti.
The lack of communications has frustrated efforts to determine the fate of up to 6,000 Canadians living in the Caribbean country. Two RCMP officers and former Liberal MP Serge Marcil are among the missing.
The sheer magnitude of the devastation from Tuesday's 7.0 magnitude quake - which wiped out much of the impoverished country's communications infrastructure - left the exact nature and extent of Canada's role vague until a clearer picture emerges of what's needed most.
Cannon consulted with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late Wednesday and he planned to talk to Brazil's foreign minister on Thursday. Brazil is the lead country in Haiti's UN mission.
Cannon was also to speak with the UN under-secretary general of peacekeeping operations.
"We agreed on the importance to build capacity and co-ordination on the ground in order to adequately respond to the crisis."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday search and rescue is the first priority for Canadian military and aid teams.
Canada is committing an immediate $5 million in humanitarian assistance and promises speedy deployment of aid.
More than 100,000 people of Haitian descent, including Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, live in Canada. Most are in Quebec. Many spent an agonizing day Wednesday trying fruitlessly to reach relatives.
"Like me, Haitian communities across Canada are heartbroken and overwhelmed by the magnitude of this catastrophe," a distraught Jean told a news conference Wednesday, choking back tears.
"The images and news reports are unbearable to watch. So much distress, suffering and loss."
Oda said Canada has stockpiles of mosquito nets, basic household goods, tents and sanitation packages ready to go to Haiti as soon as it's clear what's needed.
She said it's important to take time to co-ordinate relief efforts - a lesson learned from the tsunami that hit Indonesia in 2004, when badly co-ordinated international aid resulted in a surplus of some supplies and equipment and severe shortages of others.
While the exact number of quake casualties was unknown, the International Red Cross estimated that as many as three million Haitians - a third of the country's population - may need emergency aid. Thousands of buildings have been flattened, including the parliament, hospitals, a prison and the UN headquarters.
Hedi Annabi, the UN secretary general's special envoy, was among the more than 100 missing UN workers.
Cannon said 24 staff at the Canadian mission in the Haitian capital were accounted for, as were five military personnel.
Canada's embassy building was evacuated as a precaution.
There are 707 Canadians registered with the embassy of the 6,000 Canadians believed to be living in the country.

Most of Haiti's nine million people are desperately poor, and after years of political instability the country has no real construction standards.

The country is the largest recipient of Canadian long-term development assistance in the Americas and the second largest in the world.
Foreign Affairs is urging Canadians worried about friends and family in Haiti to call its emergency operations centre in Ottawa at 1-800-387-3124 for assistance.
For updates, they can also check the Foreign Affairs website aiti.aspx.
Canadians in Haiti are urged to make their way to the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince.

Organizations: UN, Dominican Republic, International Co Canadian International Development Agency RCMP Foreign Affairs International Red Cross

Geographic location: Haiti, OTTAWA, Canada Montreal Port-au-Prince Brazil Ontario Caribbean U.S. Quebec Indonesia Americas

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