France sends aid to quake-struck Haiti
A total of 130 French rescuers, doctors, nurses, trained rescue dogs as well as 12 tonnes of aid and rescue material were due to reach Haiti within a day.Paris – France flew planes full of rescuers to help drag people from the rubble of the huge earthquake that devastated Haiti, plus humanitarian aid and doctors to treat the masses of victims.
Civil safety authorities on Wednesday said a total of 130 French rescuers, doctors and nurses as well as trained rescue dogs were due to reach Haiti within a day, with 12 tonnes of aid and rescue material.
President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his "deep emotion" and solidarity with the people of Haiti "and with the UN personnel who were seriously affected by the earthquake," in a statement released by his office.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, a former humanitarian aid worker, said on Wednesday evening that France was sending four planes from the nearby French Caribbean island of Martinique with police and rescuers and hospital staff.
Another aid plane was also due to take off from France to Haiti, where around 1,500 French nationals live, officials said.
Kouchner told a news conference that the French embassy was still looking for at least 50 French people who were in areas particularly affected by the destruction.
Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet, who is responsible for foreign aid, himself planned to visit Haiti on Saturday, Kouchner said.
The French humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it was treating around 600 people in its centres in Port-au-Prince and that it would on Wednesday send a 100-bed inflatable field hospital.
The group employs 40 expatriates and more than 500 locals in Haiti.
Medecins du Monde, another French aid group that operates in Haiti, said it was sending 10 extra staff and was chartering a plane to transport 40 tonnes of equipment and medical supplies to the stricken country.
Aid group Action Contre La Faim and the French Red Cross were among other aid groups that said they were also mobilised.
It was the strongest earthquake to hit Haiti in more than a century. The death toll could top 100,000, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN.
Kouchner said in Paris that the centre of the capital Port-de-Prince was "completely destroyed", with the French embassy among the buildings ruined and medical aid urgently needed.
"The hospitals are all very badly damaged," he said.
AFP / Expatica