13 enero 2010


Published by The New York Times, US

United Nations (AP) - The headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti collapsed in Tuesday's earthquake and a large number of U.N. personnel are missing, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said late Tuesday.

Alain Le Roy told reporters that U.N. troops, mostly from Brazil, were surrounding the wreckage of the five-story building trying to rescue people, but ''as we speak no one has been rescued from this main headquarters.''

''The main building that was the headquarters building has collapsed,'' he said. ''We know clearly it is a tragedy for Haiti, and a tragedy for the U.N., and especially for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti.''

''We know there will be casualties but we cannot give figures for the time being,'' Le Roy said.

Between 200 and 250 people normally work at the peacekeeping headquarters, located on the road from the city to the hillside district of Petionville, but the quake occurred a little after 5 p.m. local time and the U.N. does not know how many were still in the building, deputy peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet said.

''For the moment, a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for,'' Le Roy said in an earlier statement.

He told reporters that among the missing is Hedi Annabi, the head of the U.N. mission in Haiti who was in the building at the time of the quake.

Mulet, who was Annabi's predecessor in the Haiti post, said the headquarters building, on the road from the city to the hillside district of Petionville, was constructed of reinforced concrete in the 1960s. It was previously the Christopher Hotel.

Le Roy said other U.N. installations in the impoverished Caribbean nation were also seriously damaged including the headquarters of the U.N.

Development Program where many people were wounded.
The U.N. logistical base near the airport and a U.N. hospital run by Argentine troops were damaged but not severely, and the hospital was receiving people hurt in the earthquake, Mulet said.

The U.N. officials said many other buildings in Port-au-Prince were also damaged including the National Cathedral, National Palace, national Parliament building and the Hotel Montana.

Le Roy, the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, said ''contacts with the U.N. on the ground have been severely hampered as communications networks in Haiti have been disabled by the earthquake.''

The U.N. Peacekeeping Department is still in the process of gathering information on the extent of the damage and the status of U.N. personnel following the ''catastrophic earthquake,'' he said in the statement.