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World

Germany rushes funds, rescue teams to Haiti

The German government and aid agencies are among those scrambling to provide assistance to Haiti following the devastating earthquake. Thousands of people are feared dead, and survivors are without food and water.

People gather in the street after an earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Many survivors have been left without food or water

The German government announced on Wednesday that it has earmarked 1.5 million euros ($2.2 million) in emergency aid to help Haiti cope with the devastion caused by Tuesday's earthquake.

It is not yet clear how long it will take to determine a death toll, but many thousands of people are believed to have been killed. Officials say that 7,000 people have been buried so far in mass graves. Haitian President Rene Preval has said that quake may have claimed as many as 50,000 lives.

The German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) has sent four people to the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, to assess what is needed. Two special THW teams, one trained to rescue survivors from the rubble, and the other equipped to provide them with safe drinking water, are also preparing to depart.

The German Development Ministry is set to send in emergency food supplies worth half a million euros.

Workers of the Action Medeor collect parcels within emergency health kits in Toenisvorst, western Germany

Haiti lacks the infrastructure to quickly distribute relief supplies

Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed her condolences to the victims of the earthquake. Germans were "distressed to see how much damage was caused," she said at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday. She also said that Germany would do what it could to help in the aftermath of the quake.

Europeans take action

The European Union, meanwhile, has pledged three million euros to the relief effort in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

European President Herman Van Rompuy said he wished to express, "the utmost solidarity with the people of Haiti, and that the EU stands ready to offer assistance in any possible way."

Belgium, Sweden and Luxembourg have offered help via an EU emergency assistance coordination mechanism, with offers ranging from water purification units to tents.

France is sending two airplanes, a field hospital and other rescue services. Britain is also sending a search and rescue team and heavy rescue equipment.

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the world's largest humanitarian organisation, is already on the ground in Haiti.

A map of Haiti

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere

Relief Biscuits

Ralf Suedhoff, head of the WFP's Berlin bureau, says about 200 staff are currently in Haiti, where an estimated two million people suffer from hunger. The WFP has food stocks to supply about 30,000 people with immediate aid, which in this case, are high energy biscuits.

"The Haitians will have no facilities to cook, and they will probably have no safe water, so this is what's best at present and we hope to supply them with these biscuits for the first week."

"These biscuits are a key tool in responding to an emergency," Suedhoff told Deutsche Welle.

"The WFP also has a hub for emergency response in El Salvador, so more high energy biscuits will be arriving shortly," Suedhoff said.

"Now it is a question of getting things done as quickly as possible, as search and rescue teams from a global network were being mobilised by the United Nations to find survivors in the rubble."

"It's a race against time," he said.

smh/dpa/ Reuters/AFP
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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