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Page last updated at 18:43 GMT, Saturday, 16 January 2010

US presidents launch Haiti quake funds appeal

US President Barack Obama: 'Historic effort needed in Haiti'

President Barack Obama has appealed to US citizens to contribute funds to help Haiti after the devastating quake that has killed tens of thousands of people.

The US was launching "one of the largest relief efforts in its history", he said, flanked by former Presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading for Haiti to back aid efforts and offer "unwavering support".

Relief has been arriving, but little has moved beyond the jammed airport.

There are reports of gangs and looting in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

There is little police presence in the capital - a BBC correspondent saw only six police officers throughout the day on Friday - although some Brazilian UN peacekeepers are patrolling the streets.

AT THE SCENE
Matt Frei
Matt Frei, BBC News, Port-au-Prince

There are quite a few diggers in town moving debris, sometimes even bodies. But if you reach a pile of rubble, and there's any evidence of life, what you have to do is pick that pile of rubble brick by brick, glass shard by glass shard.

The story that we've heard time and time again is that of lack of bright lights to continue working through the night.

A part of the tarmac looked like a hospital ward on Friday with patients on drips waiting to be moved out. But that is a tiny proportion.

At an outdoor hospital in town there was not a single doctor or nurse, and people were dying in front of our eyes unnecessarily.

If you have lost a leg or foot, and you are lying out in the open at these extraordinary temperatures without water, and medicine, often without any shade for four days, you are not going to live very long.

There is no reason why some of the dozens of doctors who have arrived in the past two days should not go there to treat these people. The roads are clear and it's only a 20-minute drive from the airport.

On Saturday morning, a magnitude-4.5 aftershock struck close to Haiti's capital, the US Geological Survey said, forcing people to flee buildings.

According to Haitian Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime, 50,000 bodies have been collected, but the total number of dead could be "between 100,000 and 200,000".

Damage to the seaport, roads and other infrastructure has prevented the speedy distribution of supplies.

President Barack Obama met George W Bush and Bill Clinton in Washington to seek their support.

After the talks, Mr Obama said the two men would lead the US fundraising efforts through the Bush-Clinton Haiti Fund.

"At this moment we're moving forward with one of the largest relief efforts in our history to save lives and deliver relief that averts an even larger catastrophe," Mr Obama said.

"The two leaders with me today will ensure that this is matched by a historic effort that extends beyond our government."

Mr Bush urged Americans to send "cash", and Mr Clinton said Haitians "can escape their history and built a better future if we do our part".

The whole country has been decapitated
Elisabeth Byrs
UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Mrs Clinton was due in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, but her arrival has been delayed.

In Geneva, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said aid workers were dealing with a disaster "like no other" in UN memory because the country had been "decapitated".

"Government buildings have collapsed and we do not even have the support of the local infrastructure," Elisabeth Byrs said.

Ms Byrs said the situation was even worse than the devastation wrought by the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia's Aceh province.

"It's worse than the Indonesian earthquake where at least we could get the support of some local authorities," she said.

The UN has launched an appeal for $562m (£346m), intended to help three million people for six months.

A total of about $360m has been pledged so far for the relief effort, but only part of this sum will be included in the emergency appeal.

US authorities have taken temporary control of the airport to help distribute aid supplies more quickly.

A pregnant nurse was pulled from the rubble after people heard her screams

Aid may be arriving in huge quantities but there is little of it to be seen in Port-au-Prince, says the BBC's Nick Davies in the capital.

And many people continue to leave the city, in search of food, water and medicine.

The UN is reporting a rise in the number of people trying to cross into the neighbouring Dominican Republic, and an influx into Haiti's northern cities.

The US has already sent an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, to Haiti and the USS Bataan, carrying a marine expeditionary unit, is on its way.

Map

A hospital ship and more helicopters are due to be sent in the coming days, carrying more troops and marines, with the total number of US troops to rise to between 9,000 and 10,000.

Aid groups say it is a race against time to find any more trapped survivors.

Plane-loads of rescuers and relief supplies have arrived or are due from the UK, China, the EU, Canada, Russia and Latin American nations.

The UN said about 300,000 people had been made homeless.

Meanwhile, details are emerging about the extent of the damage beyond Port-au-Prince. Up to 90% of the buildings have been damaged in Leogane, a town about 19km (18 miles) to the west, the UN said.

"According to the local police, between 5,000 to 10,000 people have been killed and most bodies are still in the collapsed buildings," Elisabeth Byrs said.



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