News24

Hope persists in Haiti

2010-01-19 14:19

Geneva - The United Nations said on Tuesday there was "still hope" of pulling more survivors from the debris from Haiti's earthquake, a week after the disaster struck.

"Hope persists. There is still hope," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokesperson of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha).

Byrs earlier told AFP that international search and rescue teams had pulled out more than 90 people from beneath collapsed buildings since the disaster struck on January 12.

They include more than 70 people who had been freed from under collapsed buildings by the teams by Saturday, according to the UN. This means that about 20 people were rescued five or six days after the earthquake struck.

"The climate is mild, there are significant air pockets. The way in which the buildings collapsed has created big spaces" that helped to increase chances of survival, said Byrs.

"The problem is dehydration but for the moment there is still a chance," she added.

International rescue teams are now also combing the debris outside of the Haitian capital, said the UN spokesperson.

Besides the capital, the earthquake has wreaked massive damage on nearby cities, including Jacmel to the south of the capital, and Carrefour, Gressier and Leogane, to the west.

Ocha said the immediate priorities for relief agencies remained "medical assistance, corpse management, shelter, water and food and sanitation".

While food and tents are arriving in the country, relief agencies said access to fuel - essential for the transport of relief items - was becoming a key issue.

The World Food Programme is now planning to move 37 855 litres of diesel fuel a day from neighbouring Dominican Republic to help relieve the situation, said Ocha in its latest situation report.

"Fuel has become a critical issue," said Emilia Casella, the UN food agency's spokesperson.