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Haiti Calls Off Search, Rescue


Official Haitian government figures put the number of confirmed dead at nearly 111,500 and the number of homeless people around Port-au-Prince at more than 600,000.

The United Nations says Haiti's government has called off the search and rescue mission in the earthquake stricken country. The government's declaration comes 10 days after this catastrophic event destroyed much of the capital Port-au-Prince, as well as other towns and villages outside the city.

The decision to stop searching for survivors of the earthquake comes the day after two people buried in the rubble of Port-au-Prince were pulled out alive. This revived hopes that others may have survived. But, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Elizabeth Byrs tells VOA this is a false hope.

"They might find some, let us call them, miracle people survivors," she said. "But, unfortunately, as the times go by, the hope fades. It is almost impossible to find somebody alive by now. We still have miracles, but these unfortunately are not, I think the majority of the rule."

Byrs says 132 people have been rescued by international search and rescue teams since the earthquake struck. At the peak of the response, she says there were 67 teams in Haiti consisting of approximately 2,000 staff and 160 dogs.

Official Haitian government figures put the number of confirmed dead at nearly 111,500 and the number of homeless people around Port-au-Prince at more than 600,000. Byrs says these figures are only preliminary and will change once the assessment missions are completed.

She says search and rescue teams that have heavy equipment will remain in Haiti to help with the humanitarian relief effort.

"They are supporting in the distribution of food and also, of course, medical care and medical assistance," said Byrs. "The search and rescue teams with light equipment are already on their way back. The Haitians more and more are in charge. Now, we are focusing also on the shelter issue. The rainy season and hurricane season is starting and these people must have decent shelter."

Byrs says the Haitian government has helped more than 130,000 people leave Port-au-Prince. She says these people have gone to the countryside where many are staying with family.

She says this is putting enormous pressure upon these families who are extremely poor and have limited resources. She says they too are in need of international assistance.

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