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Bill Clinton calls for aid, helicopters for Haiti

Former US president Bill Clinton warned of an unprecedented humanitarian disaster in Haiti and implored Americans and others to open their wallets to aid the quake-stricken nation.

world Updated: Jan 14, 2010 16:44 IST

Former US president Bill Clinton warned on Thursday of an unprecedented humanitarian disaster in Haiti and implored Americans and others to open their wallets to aid the quake-stricken nation.

"Early estimates indicate that nearly three million people -- almost a third of Haiti's population -- may need aid, making this one of the great humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas," Clinton said the Washington Post.

"Those who are still alive under the rubble must be found," Clinton, the UN special envoy for Haiti, wrote in a commentary.

"The bodies of those who have died must be taken away. Power must be restored and roadways cleared," he said of the horrific conditions in the capital Port-au-Prince, which took the full force of Tuesday's 7.0 quake.

"But what Haiti needs most is money for water, food, shelter and basic medical supplies to bring immediate relief to those who are homeless, hungry and hurt."

Clinton on Wednesday launched a fund for the destitute nation.

"We've got to save as many lives as possible," he said in a speech to the UN General Assembly, amid fears Haiti's death toll could top 100,000.

"So the most important thing individuals who care can do are to send cash, even if it's a dollar or two."

People could donate through the website of his Clinton Foundation at www.clintonfoundation.org/haitiearthquake, or send 10 dollars to UN relief efforts through a cell phone texting program.

At the United Nations, Clinton warned that Haitians would have to endure "another three or four really hard days of just clearing through the rubble to find the living and those who have died".

"One of the things that we're worried about is that some people will die from exposure, from dehydration, from their injuries who could be saved," he said.

"Which is why getting these search and rescue teams in there is so important and why... I think it's very important to realize that we are going through about a week here -- maybe even 10 days to two weeks -- where the critical needs are very simple: food, water, shelter, first aid supplies."

He said UN teams were working to get cell phone communications restored and, with many roads left impassable, helicopters would play a vital role in the aid operation.

"If you can provide any of this emergency help -- if you can give us helicopters, if you can give us basic medical supplies, we need that. But remember, this is going to be a long-term process," the former president said.

C-130 transport planes could help fly in heavy digging and lifting equipment, especially from the Dominican Republic, Clinton said, adding there was already some in Haiti but he was not sure it was in the capital.