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Last updated: 13 January, 2010 - Published 22:29 GMT
 
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Aid starts arriving in Haiti
 
Haiti's National Palace after collapse

The Caribbean reacted swiftly to news of the earthquake with initial responses coming from Haiti's immediate neighbours - the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

The airport outside the Dominican Republic capital, Santo Domingo, became the scene of major activity as planes and helicopters which sent in medical supplies and search and rescue response team.

Speaking to BBC Caribbean earlier the new Chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit, called the quake "gut-wrenching".

Haiti is one of the few non-English speaking members of Caricom.

Emergency aid

Regional leaders pledged immediate assistance with a contingent from the Caribbean Disasters Emergency Management Agency formerly known as Cedera.

Cdera officials had hoped that regional aid could start arriving in Haiti overnight Wednesday.

A BBC correspondent in Santo Domingo said Wednesday that priority was being given to planes and helicopters carrying aid to Haiti via the Dominican Republic.

Sympathy

Caribbean leaders offered their sympathies to the people of Haiti and said they are making available immediate relief and financial assistance to help with the largest natural disaster to hit the country in 200 years.

woman sits in rubble
Many waited in the streets during Wednesday

Speaking to BBC Caribbean, Caricom Secretariat spokesman Leonard Robertson said there was a co-ordinated regional effort underway.

"We have very little communication....to enable us to get a picture apart from what we are seeing on the news media," Robertson told BBC Caribbean.

He said that Caricom and Cdema planned to get representatives on the ground in haiti on Wednesday to assess what was "most urgently needed" there.

Robertson added that the regional groupings then hoped to get relief supplies into Haiti by Thursday or Friday.

As Haiti's neighbours lined up to offer support, even the poorer economies pledged large sums to help Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas region.

Grenada's Prime Minister Tillman Thomas told BBC Caribbean that natural disasters such as hurricanes meant the region was best placed to understand Haiti's immediate needs.

Another of Haiti's immediate neighbours, Jamaica, had also felt tremors Tuesday evening on its north-east coast but there have no reports of damage there.

Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding said he planned to go to Haiti on Thursday as his government sought to assess its role in the recovery efforts.

US-based Haitians to the rescue

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians live in the New York area and they are gearing up to donate their money, their goods and their time to help their country get back on its feet.

But people are trying to help.

The Haitian Consulate in New York has asked doctors and nurses to volunteer to go to Haiti.

Mathieu Eugene, the only Haitian born member of the New York City Council, says he has secured an ambulance that will help.

A major concert is being planned to aid Haiti..Pras, a cousin of Wyclef Jean, and a former member of the Fugees says he will do what he can for his homeland.

International aid

woman covered in dust
Food and water were the most necessary relief supplies

Beyond the Caribbean, the international community geared up to help Haiti with pledges of support coming from all over the world and from international organisations.

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said the damage has been concentrated in Port au Prince.

The UN also had been forced to check on its own 10-thousand plus staff manning the UN peacekeeping and stabilisation force after their own building had also been damaged by the earthquake.

White House response
 The first 24 to 48 hours, 72 hours - do everything to save lives and then, of course, quickly beginning to flow in assistance...to prevent further loss of life
 
Mike Hammer, Chief National Security Council Spokesman for the White House

In addition to the joint UN approach, many countries prepared to send their own search and rescue teams as well as supplies for survivors.

President Obama promised full support from the United States calling the pictures of devastation "truly heart-wrenching."

Chief National Security Council Spokesman for the White House, Mike Hammer, told BBC Caribbean that President Obama asked his national security team to work out a plan overnight Tuesday.

He said that American officials were arriving in Haiti Wednesday.

"Our main focus is to try to save lives at this time...and of course co-ordinate efforts (between countries)", Hammer told BBC Caribbean.

"The key here is to get our folks on the ground.....then it's a matter of co-ordinating to see which assistance that's most pressing.

"We're talking to President Preval and his folks to determine what's best and what's needed. The first 24 to 48 hours, 72 hours - do everything to save lives and then, of course, quickly beginning to flow in assistance..to prevent further loss of life. "

Haiti's ambassador to the UK, Raymond Magloire said the rescue operation would be difficult.

"Many houses are built on slopes or ravines and it is difficult to recover bodes," Magloire told the BBC.

Magloire also spoke of the follow-up problems which, he said, would include access to food and drinking water and the build-up of dead bodies in the capital.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund all issued statements on their plans to upgrade infrastructure work they had already started in Haiti before the quake.

Meanwhile, countries with peacekeepers in Haiti as well as additional nations - from China to Venezuela - all lined up to offer as much help as possible.

 
 
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