Page last updated at 21:12 GMT, Saturday, 16 January 2010

DEC's Haiti earthquake appeal nets 12m

The British Airways plane sent to Haiti
A British Airways Boeing 747 was altered to allow more space for aid

The scenes of devastation which have followed Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti have led to people in the UK giving £12m to the official relief fund.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had been "humbled" by the generosity shown by those who had donated money.

UK airlines are transporting aid to the Caribbean nation, with British Airways taking supplies and Virgin Atlantic carrying medics and rescuers.

Some British citizens are unaccounted for, the UK's ambassador in Haiti said.

Efforts were continuing to contact them, Steven Fisher added.

BBC correspondent Sophie Hutchinson
The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson in London:
Around 100 people, most from different African and Caribbean nations, and journalists packed Southwark Town Hall in south London for the launch of the Haiti appeal.

The charity United Haitians in the United Kingdom asked for donations of clothes, medicine and money.

In amongst the crowd there were perhaps just a dozen Haitians present, reflecting the tiny size of the community in Britain.

One of the few, a young teacher from Southampton, beamed a jubilant smile as he told me after days of waiting he'd received a text message.

It had come just minutes ago from an uncle in Haiti and said his family had survived.

"That's… a big relief for me, to be able to hear from them," he said, and commented he'd definitely sleep much better tonight.

But another, a tall young woman, just shook her head, barely able to speak.

"It's bad news," she said. "Bad news."

Appeals have been broadcast on TV and radio by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which brings together 13 major British-based charities.

The funds it raises will be spent on search-and-rescue operations, medical care, food, clean water, clothes and temporary shelter.

Airlines have converted passenger planes so they can carry more cargo to the Caribbean nation, where the 7.0-magnitude earthquake has killed tens of thousands of people.

A British Airways Boeing 747 took off from London's Heathrow Airport on Saturday morning, bound for Haiti's neighbouring country, the Dominican Republic.

Seats were removed from the economy-class cabin so water containers, purification equipment and pumps could be stored there.

The company has also pledged £300,000 from its Unicef Change for Good programme, plus the £250,000 cost of the plane and its fuel.

Virgin Atlantic sent an airliner carrying aid and medical personnel to Miami, with further flights bound for Orlando and Jamaica due to leave in the coming days.

'Harrowing scenes'

The prime minister said it was "extraordinary" that so much money had been donated to the appeal in such a short time.

"The generosity of people's spirit, our willingness to give even when some people have so little to give, humbles me," he told a meeting in London.

The DEC appeal for victims of the earthquake in Haiti

The international development minister, Mike Foster, said people had "responded magnificently".

"I think the very harrowing scenes on the ground that come through, being broadcast through people's TV screens, bring it home to individuals just the sheer scale of disaster that the people of Haiti are suffering," he told BBC News.

"Any natural disaster on that scale, I think, will bring the best out of people."

A special televised appeal for the DEC was broadcast on Friday evening on BBC One and ITV1.

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

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

Mr Fisher, the UK's ambassador for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, described the situation in Port-au-Prince as "horrific" and said there was "concern" about the safety of aid workers.

"There are people out there who want water and food, and if they perceive that a United Nations lorry is carrying food, then of course you could expect it to be attacked."

He said there was evidence of aid reaching people but "clearly not as much as everyone would like".

"It's a huge, huge challenge for the international community to marshal all this aid," he told BBC News.

"The question is how to deliver it."

Girl found alive

It was unclear exactly how many Britons remained unaccounted for in Haiti.

The Foreign Office said 30 had been found safe and well, although one UK woman - Ann Barnes, originally from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex - is known to be missing.

The 59-year-old personal assistant to the UN police commissioner in Haiti has not been heard of since the UN's headquarters collapsed on Tuesday.

A street in Port-au-Prince, 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

A 71-strong British search-and-rescue team has flown to the region, and includes a number of firefighters and two search dogs.

They found a two-year-old girl alive in the rubble of a nursery.

And they rescued a man aged 55 from a collapsed supermarket and a 39-year-old woman who had been in a block of flats.

Meanwhile the organisation United Haitians in the UK asked for donations of clothes, medicine and money.

It held a meeting in London attended by some of those whose relatives were missing or displaced.

"I've been calling, trying to call on the internet and in e-mails, and I've got nowhere," said Nadege Attis, whose boyfriend is missing.

"I've decided it's better for me to go there, and find any ways I can to go there," she told BBC News. "I can't keep waiting."

She said she had been regularly sending messages to relatives and friends in Haiti but "obviously they don't have electricity so there's no way they're going to have access to e-mails".

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.

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