It seemed clear that the death toll from Tuesday afternoon’s magnitude-7.0 quake in Haiti would run into the thousands. Among them was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, and France’s Foreign Minister said the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission also was apparently among the dead.

International Red Cross spokesman Paul Conneally said a third of Haiti’s nine million people may need emergency aid and that it would take a day or two for a clear picture of the damage to emerge. The United Nations said the capital’s main airport was “fully operational” and that relief flights would begin on Wednesday.

The prominent died along with the poor: the body of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot (63), was found in the ruins of his office, said Father Pierre Le Beller of the Saint Jacques Missionary Centre in Landivisiau, France.

The United States and other nations — from Iceland to Venezuela — said they would start sending aid workers and rescue teams to Haiti the start of a major emergency operation. The international Red Cross and other aid groups announced plans for major relief operations in the western hemisphere’s poorest country.

Many will have to help their own staff as well as stricken Haitians. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said its embassy was destroyed and the ambassador hospitalised. Spain said its embassy was badly damaged.

“Haiti has moved to centre of the world’s thoughts and the world’s compassion,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

The U.N.’s 9,000 peacekeepers in Haiti, many of whom are from Brazil, were distracted from aid efforts by their own tragedy: Many spent the night hunting for survivors in the ruins of their headquarters.

“It would appear that everyone who was in the building, including my friend Hedi Annabi, the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s special envoy, and everyone with him and around him, are dead,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on RTL radio.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy would not confirm that Annabi was dead but said he was among more than 100 people missing in the rubble of its headquarters.

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