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Donations flood websites

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Donations flood websites

TORONTO -- Millions of dollars in donations and pledges were pouring in to Canadian aid agencies Thursday for disaster relief in earthquake-shattered Haiti -- so much that their web servers teetered on the brink of collapse.

The overwhelming response prompted the minister of national revenue to advise Canadians to make sure they donate wisely and avoid getting scammed.

Kieran Green of the Humanitarian Coalition, which includes Care Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec and Save the Children, said the donations were "quite literally overwhelming."

"The company that does our online donations has said that they have already had a couple of servers go down from the volume of the response," Green said early Thursday.

Doctors Without Borders reported the same massive response, with spokeswoman Avril Benoit tweeting on Twitter that they were "white-knuckling it" as the agency's website "teeters from overload."

The worst is yet to come

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Canadian officials still have no clear idea about the extent of the damage from Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti. Some estimate there could be more than 50,000 dead, but Haitians could fare far worse in the days to come as the remaining supplies like food, water and fuel quickly dry up.

Dead bodies still litter the streets of Port-au-Prince and the Haitian government is offering money to anyone with a truck willing to cart them away.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officers are in the process of evaluating what could be an explosive security situation. Reports of looting circulated Thursday and there were concerns that damaged Haitian prisons have allowed hundreds of convicts to escape.

"The next 48 to 72 hours will be critical," said one Montreal police officer serving with the UN mission in Haiti. "So far things have been relatively calm, but we're waiting to see how they'll react to food and water shortages."

Canadian officials have taken to travelling in armed convoys as a security precaution as they try get to people in need of help.

Immigration rules eased

OTTAWA -- Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is looking at ways to make it easier for Haitians to come to Canada as immigrants or refugees, in response to the devastating earthquake in the Caribbean country.

Options include waiving fees, speeding up applications for family reunification and perhaps even relaxing the definition of who can be included in reunification.

Last year, Canada responded to humanitarian crises in Sri Lanka and the Philippines by quickly processing applications to reunite close family members. The procedural change allowed about 1,600 Sri Lankans and 400 Filipinos to reunite with their families more quickly, according to the Immigration Department.

Ottawa is also considering halting all deportations of Haitians for now. Most Haitians in Canada are already covered by a deportation ban, even if their refugee or immigration applications fail. But Canada has never extended the ban to criminals.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2010 A4

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