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Situation in Haiti

Situation in Haiti

Published on January 14, 2010
Press briefing given by Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (excerpts)

Paris, January 13 2010

THE MINISTER – (…) As regards the French relief effort, everything is ready. We have been ready for action since yesterday evening: the crisis centre worked throughout the night. Two planes are preparing to leave. Given the time difference – one’s coming from Martinique and the other from Paris – one will arrive around midday and the other later in the afternoon. A mobile hospital is ready; for the moment we don’t yet know where we can put it. It’s always like this in the upheaval following major disasters. We have to be useful and we think that subsequently – not immediately because everything is disorganized – this mobile hospital could be used for the very many injured people who could be admitted over the next few days.

In our planes, there’s equipment, there are gendarmerie officers and consular and humanitarian officials provided for by the crisis centre. There are also members of the sécurité civile [emergency services], experienced people, teams with their equipment to try and free the victims.

But we aren’t under any illusions, we have to act as fast as possible. Things are still pretty disorganized when it comes to getting access to all the buildings which are probably – I don’t know – damaged. To get access to them all will take time.

The Americans, as well as countries from all over the region, are sending relief. Mrs Ashton, the new European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs has just phoned me: the European Union’s humanitarian organization, ECHO, has money and we ourselves have some funds. None of this will be useful on the spot until we know more, probably during the afternoon. With your agreement, we’ll give another briefing, here. (...)

Q. – Have you got details on what the planes will be carrying?

THE MINISTER – There will of course be other planes. For the moment, there are 120 rescuers and medical personnel in the two planes, which are leaving at the same time and will arrive at an airport we know is usable. This is crucial: we know they will be able to land. Here too, there are usually (…) difficulties when relief arrives. We mustn’t turn the arrival of the relief into a second disaster, which often happens because you try and get as close as possible to the victims. But the operations have to be organized rationally; otherwise everyone gets in each other’s way. Sometimes, it’s better to wait a bit to slot into an effective role in the relief mission rather than rush into things. Obviously, for the moment, while the UN mission, as we fear, isn’t in a position to supply this information, it will be for the members of the Haitian government who can, to do so; I hope they aren’t injured. But for government offices which can’t reply and were already finding it extremely difficult to act… (…)./.

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