3 Pinoy peacekeepers in Haiti still trapped

Posted at 01/15/10 11:21 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino peacekeepers are racing against time as 3 of their fellow peacekeepers remain trapped under the collapsed United Nations Stabilization Mission headquarters in the city of Port-au-Prince in quake-hit Haiti, a military spokesman said Friday.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman, said a special team from the Philippine peacekeeping force in Haiti was also waiting for special equipment that would be used to dig into the rubbles of the Christopher Hotel, which is being used as the headquarters of the Minustah (Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haiti or the United Nations Stabilization Mission).

"Search and rescue are ongoing. We need special equipment to dig up [the location of the 3 Filipino peacekeepers]," Brawner told abs-cbnNEWS.com in a phone interview.

He said the 3 Filipino peacekeepers -- Army Sergeant Eustacio Bermudez, Air Force Sergeant Janice Arocena and Navy Petty Officer 3 Pearlie Panagui -- are believed trapped on the 2nd floor of the collapsed hotel.

He said hopes are high that the 3 would still be recovered alive after the rescue of Army Corporal David Catacutan from the collapsed Montana Hotel, which is also being utilized by the UN.

Catacutan is now "resting" at the headquarters of the Philippine peacekeeping force in Port-au-Prince.

Power outage affecting operations

Brawner, meanwhile, said that they have yet to receive a call from Lt. Col. Lope Dagoy, commander of military's contingent in the Philippine peacekeeping force.

He said they expect Dagoy to call "whenever there is a development." He added that Dagoy is trying to save the battery of the satellite phone he is using to keep the AFP and Philippine authorities informed about the condition of the trapped peacekeepers.

At a press conference on Friday, Brawner said Panagui was working as a clerk at the Office of the Force Commander, which is located on the Christopher hotel's 2nd floor. Arocena and Bermudez are also clerks working in separate offices, also located on the 2nd floor.

"They were doing overtime because the earthquake happened after 5 p.m. (Tuesday, Caribbean time) when most of the United Nations workers in that building already left for their barracks or for their respective homes," the military spokesman said.

The AFP and the Philippine National Police had assured that the other Filipino peacekeepers serving in Haiti are safe and are involved in search and rescue operations for tens of thousands more missing.

The Philippine peacekeeping force has a total of 172 personnel, including 157 from the AFP and 15 from the PNP.

Brawner said other Philippine teams on standby have yet to enter the calamity-stricken Caribbean nation because its international airport was heavily affected by the earthquake.

50,000 killed in quake

Between 40,000 and 50,000 people were killed in the Haiti quake, the International Red Cross told AFP on Thursday.

"The main figures have been given by the Haiti government, and they are talking about 40,000 to 50,000 people having been killed," said Xavier Castellanos, head of the Americas zone of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

"The scale of this event means the toll will be high and the figure given by the government is likely the right one," he said.

Castellanos added that "at least three million people had been directly affected. That's to say a third of the population."

Haitian officials had earlier warned that the overall death toll from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that ripped across the poorest nation in the Americas on Tuesday may top 100,000.

More missing foreigners

Other foreign countries, meanwhile, continued to try to obtain news of their nationals reported missing in Haiti's devastating earthquake that is feared to have killed at least 100,000 people.

Many others had not reported in to their respective embassies because of poor communications.

Australia's foreign ministry said a "small number" of Australians remain unaccounted for following the Haiti quake, but that there is no evidence of Australian deaths.

"The good news is that we have been able to confirm the safety of 20 Australians in Haiti," a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said.

At least 14 Brazilian peacekeepers were killed in the Haiti earthquake, according to Brazil's military.

One Canadian UN staffer has also been found dead and another was missing, police say in Ottawa.

Other countries with nationals in Haiti when the devastating earthquake struck were:

France - Six French nationals were killed by the earthquake, the French foreign ministry says.

Mauritius - The foreign ministry said it had no news of two Mauritian citizens, one serving with the United Nations and the other in the tourist sector.

Netherlands - The Dutch foreign ministry said it is "seriously concerned" about nine Dutch people thought to have been in hotels that collapsed.

New Zealand -  According to New Zealand family members, two New Zealand-born children and their French-Haitian father were believed killed in a collapsed    Port-au-Prince hotel. A third child was injured and taken to the Dominican Republic by their uninjured New Zealand mother.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said there were no other New Zealanders known to be affected by the quake.

Poland - One student missing, according to a foreign ministry spokesman.

Portugal - Two citizens are so far uncontactable, according to the department for Portuguese communities.

Senegal - Two policemen serving with the UN mission are missing, the Senegalese gendarmerie said.

Spain - A Spanish worker with the European Commission's delegation in Haiti is missing, a spokesman said.

Thailand: The foreign ministry said one Thai, a missionary, is missing.

United Nations - Some 190 UN staffers are still missing after the quake which killed at least 36, a UN spokesman said.

United States - A diplomat was the first US citizen confirmed killed in the earthquake, the State Department said. With Agence France-Presse