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Canada sending military field hospital to Haiti; adoptees to begin arriving soon

OTTAWA - Canada will deploy a military field hospital to Haiti with more than 100 staff, adding to Canadian medical resources already at work in the earthquake-stricken country.

OTTAWA - Canada will deploy a military field hospital to Haiti with more than 100 staff, adding to Canadian medical resources already at work in the earthquake-stricken country.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says 1 Field Hospital based in Petawawa, Ont., will depart in the coming days for Leogane, at the epicentre of the Jan. 12 quake.

The hospital's team of general doctors, surgeons, specialists and nurses will bring "much-needed health services, expertise and resources to augment the medical care that the Canadian Forces are already providing to the Haitian population," MacKay said Thursday.

Addressing the daily briefing on Canadian efforts in Haiti, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said federal officials have identified about 150 child-adoption cases that were underway before the magnitude-7.3 quake struck.

Ottawa is working with the provinces and the Haitian government to fast-track adoptions already in the system, and Kenney said the first adoptees could start arriving this weekend.

Kenney said federal officials have spoken with most prospective parents and established that all the children they plan to adopt survived the quake, although some are "ill and have health concerns."

Kenney had said Wednesday he'd directed his officials to issue temporary resident permits - "an extraordinary measure" - to allow qualified Haitian children to enter Canada as quickly as possible.

Regular processing is being waived and Ottawa will cover health costs until they can be moved to provincial programs. Many of the cases are in Quebec, home to most of Canada's 135,000 Haitians.

Most cases can go to the Haitian government for confirmation that "we can bring these children to Canada expeditiously."

"We are preparing a list of children that we would like to take out of Haiti," he said.

"Provided that we get assurances from Haitian authorities that adoptions can go forward - and I'm optimistic in that regard - we hope that the first group of children can be brought to Canada as soon as this weekend. We are working through the logistics."

While the government says it will not loosen immigration restrictions to accommodate others escaping the chaos, Kenney noted it has issued 135 temporary-resident visas to Haitians evacuating with Canadian relatives.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told the briefing 13 Canadians had been confirmed dead in Haiti by Thursday morning. Another 357 were missing.

Relief supplies continue to arrive by the planeload, and a roll on-roll off vessel was to depart Halifax late Thursday loaded with military vehicles and equipment. The trip is expected to take about 10 days.

There are currently more than 1,000 Canadian soldiers, sailors and air crew on the ground or off the coast of Haiti. That figure is to double within two weeks.

A 16-member military medical team already in Jacmel, a hard-hit town about 40 kilometres south of the capital of Port-au-Prince, treated almost 100 patients on Wednesday.

Numerous hospitals in the Haitian capital and elsewhere have collapsed, and those that are open are full.

Up to 90 per cent of Leogane was destroyed in the initial quake, and more buildings fell when a magnitude-5.9 aftershock struck on Wednesday. About 200,000 Haitians live in the surrounding area.

MacKay said the military field hospital includes an operating room with two surgical teams, two resuscitation beds, two critical-care beds and 50 immediate-and minimum-care beds.

Powered by its own generators, it also has laboratory and diagnostic-imaging capabilities.

The federal government announced earlier this week it will provide up to $135 million in funds toward Haitian relief efforts, including about $1 million for an emergency field hospital staffed by 10 Canadian civilians and operated by the Norwegian and Canadian Red Cross.

"We're striving to do everything we can - everything humanly possible - to help the people of Haiti begin the long road to recovery from this devastating earthquake," MacKay said.

"Our thoughts, our prayers are with the people of Haiti. We're there to help with the recovery, the rebuilding of your precious country."