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Sgt Mark Gallagher speaks to the media during a news conference in Halifax, N.S., in this Sept. 2008 file photo.

The Canadian Press

A Canadian nurse who travelled to Haiti to do missionary work has died in the earthquake that devastated the impoverished country.

As well, two Canadian police officers who were participating in a peace operations program are missing.

Lou Geense, the director of global initiatives with the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, said Yvonne Martin was one of seven people who arrived in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince on Tuesday afternoon.

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"It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the death of our dear sister, Yvonne Martin. Yvonne passed away as the result of the earthquake in Haiti, where she had just arrived to do medical mission work for the fourth time," says a statement on the website of the Waterloo Mennonite Brethren Church.

Ms. Martin, of Elmira, Ont., was the only one of her group who did not survive. Her body was discovered this afternoon.

"We are deeply saddened by this loss, and wish to express our sincere sympathy to her family," church president Phil Delsaut said in a statement.

The RCMP said on Wednesday that three of the 82 Canadian police officers on the ground in the country that has been devastated by an earthquake were unaccounted for.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters shortly before noon that the number of missing officers had been reduced to two.

The officers are Superintendent Douglas Coates, of Ottawa and Sergeant Mark Gallagher of Halifax.

"Everything is being done to reach them. Don't worry, we are doing everything we can," said RCMP Sgt Pat Flood.

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Lisa Gallagher, Sgt. Gallagher's wife, said she is worried her husband might be trapped in the rubble of a two-story apartment building he was living in in the country's capital.

Ms. Gallagher said she last spoke to her husband about 30 minutes before the earthquake struck.

"I'm assuming his apartment building has sustained some damage and I just hope he's not stuck in the rubble," she said. "I'm just hoping that if he's stuck somewhere he can hang on until they get to him."

In a statement, Foreign Affairs said it had received reports of "possible Canadian casualties" and expects more as search operations unfold.

The department also said the trapped Canadian who sent a text message asking for help is now safe.

The RCMP manages the peace program and deploys Canadian police from agencies across the country to trouble spots around the world. Haiti is the largest of the missions.

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Just 13 of the officers who are currently stationed in Haiti are members of the RCMP, said Sgt. Flood. The others are with "partner services."

Sgt. Flood would not say whether the missing officers are members of her force or belong to another police service. Nor would she release any information about their names and home towns.

"We're not doing a breakdown at this time," she said. "We are still focusing on trying to locate them. As soon as we have any additional information in where they are from and who they are, we will be releasing that."

The RCMP is also not saying where in the country the officers were working when the earthquake hit. "We were not exclusively in Port au Prince," said Sgt. Flood. "We were posted to many different areas of the country."

Meanwhile, the Disaster Assistance Relief Team will be deployed to help with emergency relief in Haiti as part of Canada's humanitarian effort, which the military has dubbed Operation Hamlet. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon confirmed the deployment of DART just after noon in a news conference with Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

"Canada is committed to supporting the Haitian people in these devastating times. We understand the situation is very chaotic and damage is extensive," Mr. Cannon told a press conference earlier in the day in Ottawa.

It is not clear yet how the DART will be configured. A Canadian Forces Hercules is on its way to Haiti now and will determine exactly what is needed.

As well, HMCS Halifax, which was about 200 km off the coast of Nova Scotia, is now steaming back to port to be outfitted to go to Haiti. It will be equipped with a Sea King helicopter.

The government is also pledging $5-million immediately to help with emergency shelter, medical, food, water and sanitation for earthquake-stricken Haiti.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced the measure Wednesday morning on a conference call with reporters. Ms. Oda also said the Canadian government, through the Red Cross, is working with the Norwegian government on a field hospital.

As news emerged Wednesday of mounting deaths and extensive damage, Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital. It was unknown how many people were still trapped.

The federal government sent a team of about 20 members of the Disaster Assistance Response Team. They were expected to arrive in the region by mid-morning. However, Mr. Cannon said it was not known whether the team would be able to land at the Port-au-Prince airport or whether they would have to land in neighbouring Dominican Republic.

DART is a group of about 200 Canadian soldiers who travel to hard-hit areas of the world to provide short-term water purification and medical services until long-term help arrives.

"We need eyes to assess the damage," says a senior official for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, explaining why the reconnaissance team was being deployed. "It's a very bad situation with lots of injuries and trapped people. We have been in planning and prepping all night."

Mr. Cannon said he had spoken with Canada's ambassador to Haiti on Wednesday morning, noting the embassy was evacuated last night as a precautionary measure. Canadian citizens are taking refuge at the embassy, which is providing food and medical aid. Some 7,000 Canadians live in Haiti.

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Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, who was born in Haiti and lived there until age 11, issued a statement Tuesday saying she is following the situation "with great attention and concern".

"This natural disaster has hit a country with an extremely fragile infrastructure, where many buildings are already unstable, and where living conditions are often very difficult. I fear for its people. I would like all Haitians to know that they are not alone and that the people of Canada will respond to this emergency," she said.

The United States and other nations began organizing aid efforts, alerting search teams and gathering supplies that will be badly needed in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. The international Red Cross and other aid groups announced plans for major relief operations.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says his province is prepared to pitch in to help Haiti's efforts to recover from a devastating earthquake that has likely killed thousands of people.

He says the province will offer help in reconstruction efforts, such as restoring electricity, and health care.

Mr. McGuinty says he feels a "sense of responsibility" to help Haitians, who form part of Ontario's diverse population.

Tuesday's magnitude-7.0 quake in Haiti was the strongest to hit the poor Caribbean country in more than 200 years.

The quake crushed thousands of buildings, from schools and shacks to the National Palace and the United Nations peacekeeping headquarters.

There are predictions that the quake's death toll, which may include the head of the UN peacekeeping mission, will likely run into the thousands.

Jeff Adams, director of communications at Samaritan's Purse Canada, an international Christian relief and development organization based in Calgary, said they are already sending help.

Canadians seeking emergency consular assistance in the area should contact the Emergency Operations Centre or call 613-996-8885 collect. The Operations Centre of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Friends and relatives in Canada seeking information on Canadian citizens believed to be in the affected area should contact Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada at 1-800-387-3124.

The U.S. State Department set up a toll-free number to call for information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747. The department said some callers may receive a recording because of heavy volume of calls.

The U.S. State Department has also set up links on its Web site to facilitate donations to disaster relief agencies.

Raymond Joseph, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, said Wednesday morning "there is no way of estimating" the casualties.

"I'm quite sure we're going to face a disaster of major proportion," he said in an interview on ABC's Good Morning America .

Asked what the Haitians most need, Mr. Joseph replied that "a hospital ship off the coast of Haiti is a must for us right now." He said that while it's too soon to say how many people perished in Tuesday's 7.0 magnitude quake, "Thank God that it was after hours." The ambassador noted that a lot of employees had left office buildings before the quake struck.

Mr. Joseph noted that major government buildings, including the presidential palace, have fallen.

"If a building like the palace, which is very solid, collapsed," he said, "then the devastation is going to be worse because not all of the buildings are up to code in Port au Prince."

The ambassador also said Haiti badly needs help with first-time responders, "and all kinds of good water and clothes, blankets. Anything that would be needed for victims at the outset."

With a report from Jane Taber and the Canadian Press



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Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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