Canada has committed $135-million to the Haitian earthquake relief effort as the death toll continues to mount and as troops focus on an area south and west of the devastated capital.
There are at least 12 Canadian fatalities, 699 citizens are missing and 1,566 have been located. Thirteen flights have returned from Haiti with 1,206 Canadians having been evacuated, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay and CIDA Minister Bev Oda joined Mr. Cannon this morning at the government's daily briefing on the Haitian earthquake crisis.
Mr. MacKay outlined the new focus for the expected 2,000 Canadian troops, who will be positioned in Jacmel, a town of about 40,000 on Haiti's southern coast.
Governor-General Michaëlle Jean's family has strong roots in that community, which was virtually cut off from the rest of Haiti by last Tuesday's earthquake.
The other area of concentration, Mr. MacKay said, is a town west of Port-au-Prince, Leogane, where the quake hit hardest.
Mr. MacKay said the Jacmel/Leogane region is a priority for international assistance. He said Jacmel is severely damaged, the port has been rendered inoperable and a trip from the Haitian capital that usually takes four hours now takes eight.
"The situation has been described as dire," Mr. MacKay said, noting Canadian soldiers were the first into the region.
The troops will provide everything from engineering support to clean water and medical aid. Three mobile purification plants will be on the ground in Haiti and can provide up to 36,000 gallons of clean water every day, Mr. MacKay said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cannon said he will host his international colleagues at a conference in Montreal next week on the reconstruction of Haiti. The Foreign Affairs Minister will be joined by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their counterparts from Brazil, the European Union, France, Chile, Mexico and other countries.
(Photo: Haitians crowd around the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince yesterday. Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)