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Page last updated at 01:32 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Haiti capital earthquake death toll 'tops 150,000'

Women pray during an open-air service in Port-au-Prince, 24 Jan
Hundreds of Haitians joined open-air church services in the capital

The confirmed death toll from Haiti's devastating earthquake has risen above 150,000 in the Port-au-Prince area alone, a government minister has said.

Communications Minister Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue said the count was based on bodies collected in and around the capital by state company CNE.

Many more bodies remain uncounted under rubble in the capital, including the towns of Jacmel and Leogane.

The search for survivors has officially ended and the focus has shifted to aid.

But there is disagreement about how well the aid operation is doing, with the head of Italy's civil protection service making highly critical comments.

Nobody knows how many bodies are buried in the rubble - 200,000, 300,000?
Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue
Communications Minister

Guido Bertolaso, who is in Haiti to co-ordinate relief efforts, also criticised what he saw as the presence of too many American soldiers.

He said they had no training in running a civilian relief operation.

"When there is an emergency, it triggers a vanity parade. Lots of people go there anxious to show that their country is big and important, showing solidarity", he said.

He called on the United Nations to establish a procedure to follow when major natural disasters occur.

As the death toll in Haiti has risen, it has become clear the 12 January quake is one of the worst natural disasters to have struck in recent years.

Some say the 7.0-magnitude quake killed as many as 200,000 people, while an estimated 1.5 million people have been left homeless.

Ms Lassegue said that the authorities were still far from knowing the total number of those killed.

"Nobody knows how many bodies are buried in the rubble - 200,000, 300,000? Who knows the overall death toll?" the Associated Press quotes her as saying on Sunday.

Speaking to reporters a day earlier, she said the general hospital had received about 10,000 corpses, which it had handed over to CNE for burial.

At least 75,000 people have been buried in mass graves since the disaster. Relatives have also burnt the bodies of some of the victims.

'Tremendous need'

Thousands of people joined open-air church services in Port-au-Prince, Leogane - the epicentre of the earthquake - and elsewhere on Sunday.

A day after the funeral of the capital's Roman Catholic archbishop, Father Glanda Toussaint celebrated Mass at an altar improvised on a wooden table by the wrecked cathedral.

HAITI'S REMARKABLE SURVIVORS
Rescued man Wismond Exantus in hospital
Wismond Exantus, 24 - pulled out alive after 11 days
Emmannuel Buso, 21 - rescued after 10 days
Marie Carida, 84 - saved after 10 days
Mendji Bahina Sanon, 11 - trapped for eight days
Lozama Hotteline, 25 - pulled out after seven days
Elisabeth Joassaint, 15 days - buried for seven days, half her life
Ena Zizi, 69 - rescued after seven days

He told his congregation: "What we are going through is not finished, we must reconstruct the country and reconstruct our faith. As a Haitian, it hurts."

Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean, who set up the charity foundation Yele Haiti, arrived in the capital on Sunday.

He was expected to meet officials and help distribute aid to people left homeless.

He was among a number of high-profile artists to take part in a "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon in the US on Friday which raised more than $57m (£35m) for the aid effort.

Meanwhile, BBC correspondents in Port-au-Prince report a few signs of normal life returning to the city, with street stalls starting to sell fruit and vegetables and some shops and banks re-opening.

Queues to withdraw cash have been long, as prices for what is now on sale have increased dramatically and many Haitians have been without access to money for days.

The UN says more than 130,000 people have now been relocated out of Port-au-Prince by the authorities, easing the pressure on overcrowded camps in the city. Others have left independently.

Foreign ministers will discuss plans for reconstruction at an international donor conference to take place in the Canadian city of Montreal on Monday.

BBC HAITIAN CREOLE SERVICE
Broadcasting on FM radio daily in Haitian Creole at 0910 local time (1410 GMT), for 20 minutes
Giving up-to-date information about where to get basic services and aid
Also available on satellite and online, and via social media

Hours after Haiti's government declared a formal end to the search for survivors on Saturday, a 24-year-old man was pulled alive from the remains of a hotel in the capital after 11 days under the rubble.

Rescuers described his survival as "a miracle".

Onlookers cheered as Wismond Exantus - smiling and apparently in a good condition - emerged on a stretcher from what remains of the Napoli Inn Hotel.

He later told reporters that soft drinks and snacks had kept him going. A French medic said he could expect to leave hospital within a day or two.

The BBC's Orla Guerin in Port-au-Prince says doctors believe he will make a full recovery.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Exantus appealed for search and rescue efforts to continue so that others could share his chance of rescue.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Telegraph West urged to write off Haiti's $1bn debt - 8 hrs ago
CBC Sudbury Haiti tallies body count of 150,000 - 18 hrs ago
People's Daily Online Death toll in Haiti rises amid troubled relief efforts - 25 hrs ago
Pretoria NewsHaiti focus now on recovery as hope fades - 27 hrs ago
Al Jazeera Exodus as Haiti toll passes 150,000 - 31 hrs ago
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