13 January 2010
The United Nations says that its headquarters in Haiti has been seriously damaged and many staff are missing after a powerful earthquake hit the country. There is no word yet on the number of casualties.
Reporter: Barbara Plett
Note: The photograph on this page was updated in 2011
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UN officials said some 250 people worked in the headquarters of the peacekeeping mission which has collapsed. They said the head of the mission was inside the building and remains unaccounted for, but the earthquake struck around 5 o'clock in the afternoon, so it's not clear how many others were still present.
UN troops have surrounded the ruins and are trying to rescue those trapped in the rubble; other United Nations buildings have also been damaged, but details are scarce because of disrupted communications. The peacekeeping force numbers around 11,000 people, including civilian personnel; it's located in different parts of the country, and was deployed in 2004 to bring order following an armed insurrection against then president Jean Bertrand Aristide.
The blow to the UN's services on the ground may slow relief and rescue efforts for the Haitian people, but its humanitarian department is sending emergency response teams and releasing emergency funds. The Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has said he's shocked at the scale of the devastation and has made initial contacts to encourage a coordinated international response.
Barbara Plett, BBC News, New York
Click to hear the vocabulary:
main offices of an organisation
fallen down suddenly
- remains unaccounted for
is still missing and no one has any news of him
bits of broken stones, bricks that are left when a building falls down
- details are scarce
there is not much information and it is hard to obtain
- civilian personnel
people who are employed by the UN to work in offices
started to do a job or some work (in the army or armed forces)
- an armed insurrection
a violent attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country
unexpected event that causes serious damage
- releasing emergency funds
using money that has been put aside for serious situations