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07 NOVEMBER 2008
RP PEACEKEEPERS SEARCH FOR VICTIMS IN HAITI SCHOOL COLLAPSE
NEW YORK—Filipino peacekeepers in Haiti are among those helping in the frantic search for an undetermined number of students believed trapped in the rubble of a school building in Haiti that collapsed on Friday, leaving at least 30 people dead and many others injured.
The Philippine Mission to the United Nations reported that members of the 8th Philippine Peacekeeping Contingent serving with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were among the first to arrive at the scene of the tragedy in the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince and helped in the rescue efforts.
Second Secretary Elmer G. Cato, press officer of the Philippine Mission, said the Filipino peacekeepers under Col. Raymundo Elefante rushed to the Pétionville district shortly after the upper level of the three-story La Promesse School collapsed at the height of morning classes on the last day of the Haitian school week.
Reports said that as many as 700 students with ages ranging from three to 20 were attending classes in the church-run school when tragedy struck around 10 a.m. Reports also quoted authorities as saying that the casualty toll is expected to climb as rescue efforts are hampered by the lack of equipment.
Cato said the Filipino peacekeepers, who are assigned to secure the MINUSTAH headquarters in Port-au-Prince, are working alongside other blue helmets from Brazil, Chile and Ecuador and local police in the desperate race to recover more survivors from the ruins of the collapsed structure.
The Philippines has maintained a presence in Haiti since 2004 when the United Nations sent peacekeepers to restore order in the impoverished Caribbean nation following massive protests against former President Jean Bertrand Aristide.
According to Cato, there are 157 officers and enlisted personnel from the Philippine Army, Navy and Air Force and 13 officers from the Philippine National Police currently serving with MINUSTAH. ###
ELMER G. CATO Second Secretary & Press Officer Philippine Mission to the United Nations 556 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Floor New York, New York 10036 Tel. No. 212.764.1300 Extension 38
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