PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) -- Haiti's devastating January 12 earthquake killed between 250,000 and 300,000 people, the head of the United Nations mission in the country said Thursday.
Until now, the Haitian government death toll was more than 220,000.
April 21 "marked the 100th day since the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti, leaving between 250,000 and 300,000 people dead," said Edmond Mulet, the head of the UN mission in Haiti.
Mulet also said that 300,000 people were wounded in the disaster, and more than one million people were left homeless.
The 7.0-magnitude quake left much of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince in ruins, destroying infrastructure and the seat of government and causing a humanitarian catastrophe in a country already considered the poorest in the Americas.
Mulet, speaking at a press conference, said that he wants the UN Security Council to send an extra 800 police officers to provide safety in the refugee camps.
"In the history of humanity one has never seen a natural disaster of this dimension," said Mulet, adding that the Haiti quake death toll was twice the toll of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.
Mulet said that the next 12 to 18 months will be "critical," noting that peacekeepers in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) will focus on five areas: helping support the government organize quick elections, coordinate "post-disaster" humanitarian aid, provide general security, support the Haitian government in carrying out its reconstruction plan, and "help Haiti rebuild its human capital."
Concerning security, Mulet said MINUSTAH forces will help the Haitian National Police have "a more visible presence" to help the tens of thousands of people living in 1,200 refugee camps.
Mulet, a native of Guatemala, took over the UN mission on March 31, replacing Tunisian Hedi Annabi, who was killed in the quake.
If the Security Council accepts Mulet's recommendations, the overall number of UN police in Haiti will rise to 4,391.
When the MINUSTAH peacekeeping soldiers are also counted -- though Mulet has not asked for an increase in this force -- the total UN force would reach 13,300 supported by more than 2,000 civilians.
Separately, Mulet said the Haitian government on Thursday ordered a three-week moratorium on the forced evacuation of refugees camping out on private land, schools or markets.
For nearly two weeks, the authorities and private property owners have urged people squatting on their property to leave.
More than 7,000 people who took refuge at the Port-au-Prince stadium were moved out 10 days ago, and last week some 10,000 Haitians living in a school were ordered out.
"There are students that want to return to their schools to continue their studies, and there are refugees living in the schools. So in order to avoid clashes, a moratorium was established," Mulet said.
UN officials have opened two refugee camps on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince in order to accept some 10,000 refugees currently in danger of being affected by flooding as the Caribbean rainy season is set to begin.
Mulet also said that Haiti "is going on the right path" towards reconstruction, and that he was showing "prudent optimism." He also urged people to "not underestimate the size of the task and the challenges that Haiti faces."
April 23, 2010