The United Nations is gearing up for a huge operation to help hundreds of thousands of victims of the powerful earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday. U.N. and international agencies are sending disaster experts and essential relief supplies to the stricken Caribbean Island.
The earthquake hit a number of areas including the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, where some four million people live. The World Food Program, which has a large staff on the ground, says the level of destruction indicates many of these people have been affected and will require help.
The Director of the WFP office in Geneva, Charles Vincent, says the first priority is to save lives.
"To rescue people that are buried, that are trapped, etc.…followed very rapidly by a big problem of water, sanitation, epidemic-problems of diseases that might be bred in that kind of situation," Vincent said.
Vincent says shelter and food are also critical needs. He says WFP has extensive stocks of food in the country and will distribute supplies to the victims as soon as possible. He says WFP is also airlifting energy biscuits for 30,000 people.
The Red Cross says up to three million people have been affected.
Describing the earthquake as a "catastrophe", Haiti's envoy to the U.S. said the cost of the damage could run into billions.
A number of nations, including the U.S., Britain and Venezuela, are gearing up to send aid. The Inter-American Development Bank said it will immediately approve a $200,000 grant for emergency asssistance to Haiti which is aimed at providing food, water, medicine and shelter for earthquake victims.