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Relief team 'hit the ground running'; Ottawa to match Haiti donations

Citizens are now being evacuated from Haiti as the military brings in new emergency supplies in what is one of the biggest humanitarian relief efforts Canada has undertaken.

About 100 Canadians - people who made their way to the embassy in the Haitian capital - were evacuated last night and flown to the Dominican Republic. They are expected to be in Montreal tonight.

A senior Canadian government official said those in distress, such as pregnant women and children, are being given priority. Two more planes will land later today in Haiti and will be available to take out more Canadians.

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Defence Minister Peter MacKay provided an update as to the relief effort in a briefing this morning. He was joined by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and junior foreign minister Peter Kent.

Mr. Cannon said more Canadian deaths are expected as the search and rescue effort continues. So far, there are three confirmed deaths - Elmira, Ont., nurse Yvonne Martin and Montreal couple Georges and Mireille Anglade.

It is estimated there were about 6,000 Canadians in the country at the time of earthquake.

The government has also announced it will be matching individual donations to charities up to a total of $50-million. These funds will be allocated by CIDA to Canadian and international humanitarian organizations.

Yesterday, Ottawa pledged an immediate $5-million in emergency aid.

Meanwhile, the military is still determining what is required in the composition of the Disaster Assistance Relief Team.

Mr. MacKay said this morning that the "initial elements of DART" arrived yesterday in Haiti, which included 19 Canadian Forces members. They were on the Hercules aircraft that had been loaded with relief equipment and basic food and water supplies.

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"They hit the ground running," Mr. MacKay said. This group of 19 is to report back on what more is needed in terms of the DART make-up.

As well, two aircraft left the Trenton, Ont., airbase early this morning with more supplies. A massive C-17 Globemaster cargo plane took with it a Griffon helicopter and other supplies. Another tactical aircraft went as well.

Another C-17 is to leave later today. Two ships are being deployed; one will be carrying a Sea King helicopter.

Mr. MacKay said both vessels will be available for humanitarian efforts. It takes between four to five days for the ships to arrive from their home port of Halifax.

The Canadian government is working in concert with U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to co-ordinate the relief efforts.

Mr. Cannon said he had spoken to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last night about the co-ordinated approach.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke to Mr. Obama yesterday.

(DART personnel prepare to deploy to Haiti from CFB Trenton yesterday. Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Keep track of the latest developments with our live blog:



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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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