Tuesday’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake will exacerbate living conditions for residents of Haiti, where around 80 percent of nine million people live below the poverty line.
Buildings and infrastructure in Port-au-Prince have suffered extensive damage, while water and electricity are near collapse. The death toll is still unknown.
The U.N. peacekeeping operation, MINUSTAH, was set up in 2004 and currently has more than 9,000 security personnel and nearly 2,000 civilian staff. Around 3,000 of the mission’s troops are in the Port-au-Prince area to help to maintain order and assist in relief efforts. They have also started to clear some of the capital’s main roads to allow aid and rescuers to reach those in need.
John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs said during a U.N. noon briefing Wednesday that between 50 and 100 U.N. staff are missing. Watch footage of the U.N.’s collapsed headquarters building:
MINUSTAH troops, mostly from Brazil, have worked through the night to rescue people trapped in the rubble. Thus far, several badly injured people have been found and taken to the U.N. mission’s logistics base, which remains intact.
Communication was established with Haiti President Rene Preval despite severe damage to the presidential palace. Hedi Annabi, the Tunisian head of MINUSTAH — and his deputy — are reportedly still missing.
An American rescue team from is expected in the Haitian capital late on Wednesday, and teams from France, China and the Dominican Republic are scheduled to join them soon. The U.N. is mobilizing all its resources in the wake of the devastating quake and rushing supplies to Haiti from neighboring countries.
Haiti has experienced several major natural disasters during the past few years. Since the country is so poor and its economy so vulnerable, these disasters have an incredibly devastating effect on Haitian society.
John Terrett of Al Jazeera English has more:
And Al Jazeera English‘s meteorologist, Steff Gaulter, explains the science of why the Caribbean nation is so susceptible to devastating earthquakes.
Gaulter says the problems are due to how the Caribbean tectonic plate is situated.
For more Worldfocus coverage of Haiti, visit our extended coverage page: Haiti’s Poor.