OTTAWA - Canada launched a Haitian aid-and-rescue campaign by air, sea and land Thursday, evacuating scores of desperate earthquake survivors and sending in tons of supplies and a disaster response team to the beleaguered country.
The humanitarian effort ramped up amid the sobering news that an RCMP officer was found dead in the rubble of his home in the capital Port-au-Prince.
Sgt. Mark Gallagher is the fourth Canadian confirmed killed in Tuesday's devastating quake, along with an Ontario nurse and a couple from Montreal.
At least four others are missing, including another Mountie - and more casualties are expected.
In one bit of good news, former Liberal MP Serge Marcil was found safe and was being flown out of the country for medical care.
Officials fear 50,000 people may have died in the quake and up to three million - a third of the country's population - may need emergency aid. Thousands of buildings have been flattened, including the parliament, hospitals, a prison and the UN headquarters.
A Canadian C-130 military transport and a huge C-17 touched down in Port-au-Prince carrying a helicopter, emergency supplies and members of the military's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART.) A DART reconnaissance unit, along with a team of federal officials, has been in Haiti since Wednesday assessing what help and supplies are needed most.
In Halifax, a pair of Canadian warships set sail for Haiti, loaded with everything from a helicopter to chainsaws, medical supplies, construction materials and water purification tablets.
HMCS Halifax and HMCS Athabaskan are due to arrive early next week where many of the 500 crew members are expected to help search through collapsed buildings, remove rubble and supply basic provisions.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said 100 Canadian evacuees were taken to the neighbouring Dominican Republic and were to arrive in Montreal on Thursday night.
He said the Canadian Embassy had turned itself into a "base camp" for Canadians in need and those seeking to leave the country. The embassy building has been evacuated as a safety precaution, but tents have been set up for people and medical help is being provided.
"The idea here is to make sure that within the compound, there is safe haven for people," Cannon said. "Those people who are injured, those people who are needing medical assistance, will be the first to leave.
"We are deeply saddened by reports of Canadian casualties as a result of the earthquake in Haiti. Unfortunately, the reality in the aftermath of the catastrophic events is that we expect more casualties to be reported as search-and-rescue operations unfold."
The embassy is also lending its office services to other foreign missions in Haiti, since so many embassies were destroyed.
The lack of communications has frustrated efforts to determine the fate of up to 6,000 Canadians living in the Caribbean country. Many Haitian-Canadians have spent the last two days trying fruitlessly to reach relatives.
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said Gallagher was identified visually by a search team which is now working to recover his body.
"With television images of search and rescuers pulling survivors from the rubble of buildings, the RCMP was hopeful of finding our two missing colleagues alive," he said.
"Unfortunately, I have the sad task of confirming that we have located the remains of Sgt. Mark Gallagher in the rubble of his residence in Port-au-Prince. This is devastating news for Mark's immediate family and those of us in the RCMP. My profound sympathies go out to Mark's wife Lisa and their children Shane and Heather."
The Nova Scotia Mountie was part of a UN training force in Haiti.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his "profound sadness" over Gallagher's death, noting in a statement issued Thursday that it's the first time that a serving Canadian police officer has been killed on active duty in an international peacekeeping operation.
The search continues for Supt. Douglas Coates of Ottawa who has been missing since the quake hit.
Elliott said 51 Canadian police officers have been relocated to the United Nations logistics base in Port-au-Prince where they are providing humanitarian assistance. Twenty-nine Canadian police officers located in remote regions not severely affected by the earthquake continue their UN duties, he said.
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said the federal government will match contributions by Canadians to eligible charitable organizations in support of humanitarian and recovery efforts, to a total of $50 million.
The Canadian International Development Agency will give the funds to Canadian and international humanitarian and development organizations.
The federal government has already committed an immediate $5 million in humanitarian assistance.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper encouraged Canadians to donate. He and his wife, Laureen, held a photo-op at a local Red Cross office where they handed over an envelope of money.
Harper confirmed that the government is looking at easing immigration and refugee rules to allow more Haitians into Canada quickly.
"The minister of immigration has been discussing these matters and we will have announcements in the not-to-distant future," he said.
"Our priority right now, as you know, is obviously to get relief efforts - search and rescue in particular - on the ground. That is happening."
More than 100,000 people of Haitian descent, including Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, live in Canada. Most are in Quebec.
Most of Haiti's nine million people are desperately poor, and after years of political instability the country has no real construction standards. The country is the largest recipient of Canadian long-term development assistance in the Americas and the second largest in the world.
Foreign Affairs is urging Canadians worried about friends and family in Haiti to call its emergency operations centre in Ottawa at 1-800-387-3124 for assistance. For updates, they can also check the Foreign Affairs website www.international.gc.ca/humanitarian-humanitaire/earthquake-seisme-h aiti.aspx. Canadians in Haiti are urged to make their way to the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince.