Leading article: An unfortunate land

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Haiti's miserable status as one of the world's most benighted countries was only confirmed by the earthquake that struck on Tuesday – the fiercest and most destructive for two centuries. More than 100,000 people are dead. The capital, Port-au-Prince, has lost most of its few architectural monuments, including the presidential palace and the cathedral. The head of the UN mission in Haiti, his deputy, and an as yet unknown number of staff also lost their lives.

The speed with which international relief was offered was impressive. It is to be hoped that the actual relief operation is equally so. But the population, as the myriad pictures show, are in desperate straits and the scale of people's need is almost beyond imagining. After an earthquake, time is of the essence; then there is only clearance and eventually rebuilding. For now, not only quantities of emergency aid will be needed, but coordination. And hope – hope that Haiti's future can be happier than its past.

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