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UN Chief Arrives in Haiti

  • Margaret Besheer

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Haiti, where he has come to express his support for victims of Tuesday's massive earthquake.

Mr. Ban said he is going to Haiti with a "very heavy heart." "The damage, the destruction, the loss of life, are just overwhelming. Therefore, we need unprecedented international support to Haitian people," he said.

The U.N. chief spoke to reporters aboard his flight from New York. The plane carried several of his senior advisors as well as U.N. staff and aid supplies.

Mr. Ban says the United Nations has three priorities now in Haiti.

"First, to save lives - as many lives as possible. We are running against time. This is already it the 4th day, but there is hope that we can and we may save some more lives," he said.

The organization also hopes to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance, including tents, water, medical supplies and other services. Mr. Ban said food distribution is improving and the U.N. is now feeding at least 40,000 people a day.

The other U.N. priority is to coordinate the large outpouring of international assistance.

"We should not waste even a single item, a single dollar," he added.

The Red Cross and the United Nations estimate more than 40,000 people have died as a result of the earthquake. Among them, more than 40 U.N. peacekeeping and civilian staff members. Mr. Ban said for the United Nations this is the "gravest and greatest single loss" to the organization.

He said the organization has lost many "dear colleagues" including the head of the Haiti mission, Hedi Annabi, a nearly 30-year veteran of the United Nations and his deputy, Luis Carlos da Costa.

"There are many more, I fear, colleagues whose fates, we have to prepare for the worst. But the United Nations will carry on," he said.

Mr. Ban plans to meet with President Rene Preval, U.N. staff and local earthquake victims. He said he wants to assess first hand the extent of the damage and humanitarian need.

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