Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Saturday, 16 January 2010

Haiti earthquake victims set for UK aid flights

Haiti relief flight
The BA Haiti relief flight is staffed by 30 volunteers

UK airlines have begun flying aid to earthquake-stricken Haiti.

A British Airways Boeing 747, crewed by volunteers from the airline, is taking supplies, while Virgin Atlantic is flying with medical and rescue teams.

The UK's ambassador to Haiti and the Dominican Republic Steven Fisher said some British citizens there had still not yet been contacted.

Britons have now donated £12m to an appeal to help Haiti, which Gordon Brown called "extraordinary".

The prime minister told a meeting of the Fabian Society in London: "The generosity of the people's spirit, our willingness to give even when some people have so little to give, humbles me."

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which has broadcast appeals on TV and radio, said it was delighted by the money raised, including £10m in the past 24 hours.

Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake has left as many as 45,000-50,000 people dead.

BBC reporter Robin Markwell
The BBC's Robin Markwell in Heathrow:

A vast draughty warehouse next to Heathrow is a world apart from the scorched devastation in Haiti.

But it is here that large green boxes from the charity ShelterBox are being assembled that could change the lives of some of the countless displaced.

Not much bigger than suitcases, they contain potentially life-saving supplies - blankets; mosquito nets; a pad with crayons to distract children from the horrors of everyday life; and, most crucially of all, a tent that can provide up to 10 people with somewhere to call home for a year.

Some 2,000 are being flown to Florida over the coming fortnight. But with an inoperable port and a log-jammed airport, no-one knows when they will make that final leg to Haiti.

Mounting security concerns in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as distribution problems have hampered the task of getting aid to survivors.

Mr Fisher told the BBC News channel there were believed to have been 80 to 90 Britons in the country before the earthquake.

On Friday, a two-year-old girl was rescued from a collapsed kindergarten in the capital Port-au-Prince by a UK rescue team, prompting them to say it was a "bonus".

Some of the UK rescue team that found the girl on the first full day of the international rescue effort were from the Greater Manchester and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Services.

It is thought the child, who rescuers have named Mia, was trapped for three days. She was rescued five hours after being detected by sensor equipment and a rescue dog.

Fire and rescue team chief officer Mike Thomas described the operation as "gruelling".

He added: "This is what we do the job for. The conditions we are working in are pretty dire.

"The local people have no food or water and are suffering in more ways than one."

The British Airways aircraft, which has capacity for up to 50 tonnes of cargo, took off from Heathrow Airport shortly before 0900 GMT, a BA spokesman said. It is scheduled to reach the Dominican Republic at around midnight GMT.

The DEC appeal for victims of the earthquake in Haiti

It is staffed by 30 volunteer BA pilots and crew and will stop at Billund in Denmark to pick up 40 tonnes of aid from Unicef, BA's charity partner.

The airline has also pledged £300,000 from its Unicef Change For Good Programme and the £250,000 cost of the aircraft, including fuel.

A spokesman added that seats had been removed from economy class to make room for cargo, including water containers, purification equipment and pumps.

Just after 1230 GMT a Virgin Atlantic flight carrying aid and rescue teams left the UK for Miami. Further Virgin flights to Orlando and Jamaica will leave in the coming days.

Aid agencies will then arrange for the supplies to be transferred to Haiti.

Ann Barnes, (centre) 59, originally from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, standing with unidentified friends.
Ann Barnes, 59, is originally from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

The Foreign Office (FCO) said 30 Britons have been found safe and well, but one UK woman is still missing.

Concern is growing for Ann Barnes, a personal assistant to the UN police commissioner in Haiti.

The 59-year-old, originally from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, has been unaccounted for since the UN headquarters collapsed on Tuesday.

The former British Airways stewardess has worked for the UN for more than 20 years and has been in Haiti for about two years.

The UK ambassador to the Dominican Republic and other consular staff have gone to neighbouring Haiti.

It is vitally important that people continue to donate
Brendan Gormley
DEC chief executive

A British search and rescue team - made up of 71 people, mostly from the fire services, and including two search dogs - flew to the region on Thursday.

Forty of them are working alongside Chinese rescuers in the Carrefour district on the edge of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The Department for International Development said they had UN protection.

The DEC, an umbrella organisation that co-ordinates responses to major disasters overseas, thanked the British public for their contribution to its quake appeal so far.

A special televised appeal for the DEC was shown on Friday night on BBC One and ITV1.

The Queen donated an undisclosed amount to the DEC and the Prince of Wales gave a private sum to a Red Cross fund.

Boxes of water sanitation equipment bound for Haiti
The Disasters Emergency Committee is co-ordinating an appeal to help the people of Haiti
There are 13 charities involved including the British Red Cross, Islamic Relief and World Vision
Donate via the DEC website or by telephoning 0370 60 60 900

DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley said: "The public's deep sense of horror and need to help has been shown by the level of support we are already seeing online and over the phone."

Money donated to the DEC - which brings together 13 major British-based charities - is being spent on search and rescue, medical care, food, clean water, temporary shelter and clothes.

The government has also allocated £2m to deal with "logistical problems" on the ground, such as the provision of cars and lorries to distribute aid, and to improve communications links.

Meanwhile, the UK's 1,000-strong Haitian community is awaiting news of loved ones, while a group called United Haitians UK is planning to launch a fundraising appeal.

The Red Cross has set up a website to help people abroad to try to contact their relatives. A similar site has been created by two Haitians in the US.

Muslim Aid, which launched a £250,000 aid campaign and donated £75,000, said its teams were installing purification units to provide clean drinking water and setting up a mobile field hospital.

It also made provisions for emergency shelter and food aid.

The quake, Haiti's worst in two centuries, has flattened whole areas in the country's capital.

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