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EU puts rebuilding Haiti on 'priority' list

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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union has put rebuilding quake-ravaged Haiti on its priority list, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said Friday, ahead of emergency talks between development ministers.

"I am absolutely committed to helping the people in Haiti. That is what the people of Haiti expect and they can count on us. Rebuilding Haiti is now a priority for the EU," she said in a statement.

Ashton will chair in Brussels on Monday talks among development ministers from the 27 EU nations to look at the bloc's efforts to help, and discuss the reconstruction process that will follow.

According to an initial EU damage assessment, more than 4,000 physical structures were destroyed or damaged in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck on Tuesday.

Some 50,000 people might have been killed, and officials have said that three million people -- a third of the population -- were affected.

"While we are making sure that Haiti receives the immediate and urgent support it needs, we also have to get ready for the very important next step in helping Haiti to rebuild the country," Ashton said.

The EU's top diplomat will travel to the United States on Wednesday for talks with US and UN officials.

As well as several million euros in aid, EU nations have sent search and rescue teams, dogs and handlers, hospital units, tents, food and water purification supplies to Haiti.

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