by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) Nov 9, 2012
UN leader Ban Ki-moon made a public apology to member states Friday for the global body's response after superstorm Sandy hit its UN headquarters.
The storm flooded a basement floor destroying or severely damaging about 50 luxury diplomatic cars and knocking out sensitive technology and the cooling system for the landmark building. Diplomatic missions reacted with fury.
"We fell short when it came to communications," Ban told a specially convened meeting of the 193 member UN General Assembly to discuss the storm.
"I fully understand the frustration of many delegates and staff members hoping for guidance, critical information or even just a reassuring word during the disaster," the UN secretary general said.
"Where there were mistakes, there must be lessons," he added.
The assembly held a minute's silence for the nearly 200 victims of superstorm Sandy across the Caribbean and United States before the diplomatic recriminations were aired.
The UN headquarters overlooks the East River which flooded many Manhattan Streets during the storm.
Missions complained that it took almost two days to get any information about the impact of Sandy on the UN headquarters where ambassadors' Cadillac, Lexus and Mercedes cars were left with dead rats and fish inside.
At a stormy meeting with leading UN officials this week, Algeria's UN ambassador Mourad Benmehidi said all missions "feel that the United Nations disappeared from the screens of the members for a very long time."
Ban said UN staff had tried to send out email alerts but found that many addresses they used were out of date or incorrect. "In the broadest sense we should have done more to update member states, staff alike and wider audience at large about the impact and implications of the storm," he added.
"We are looking closely into what worked and what did not work during the response and are determined to fix whatever went wrong," he said.
Ban said that the UN's global communications system did not work and that the UN Security Council had still been able to meet even though it was forced to move from its chamber.
Floods claim as many as 16 lives in Haitian city: officials
"The city has been struck by disaster. There are many dead and major damage. All the populous areas are flooded," Cap Haitien Mayor Wilborde Beon told AFP by telephone.
Beon said many people had to be rescued and given shelter from the high waters, which swept through the northern city Thursday night amid heavy rains in the region.
"The entrance to the city is completely flooded, all the rivers and ravines are swollen," he said, appealing for aid and support.
Preliminary estimates put the number of dead at 16, most of them when their homes collapsed in the flooding and heavy rains, the city's police chief, Kenel Pierre, told AFP.
"Haitian police patrols found a number of bodies in the streets. We have seen the bodies of three children aged two or three," Pierre said.
Four members of a family of eight were found dead Friday morning by rescue workers. Three children were unaccounted for and their father was in the hospital, officials said.
"There are effectively many victims that we have not been able to confirm because it is difficult to move around," Beon said.
The latest disaster to befall Haiti, which was devastated by a 2010 earthquake that killed some 200,000 people, comes just two weeks after it was hit by Hurricane Sandy, which claimed the lives of at least 54 people.
"We ask the private sector to help us because it continues to rain," said Beon. "All other sectors of the state have been mobilized."
Weather News at TerraDaily.com
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