More than 1,400 Canadians are missing in Haiti in the aftermath of Tuesday's devastating earthquake, Ottawa says.
"It doesn't mean, obviously, that these people are trapped in one way or another in the debris," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters on Friday. "It just means that we have not yet been able to contact them."
Cannon said Friday that 272 Canadians have been safely transported on military aircraft back to Canada.
Fifty Canadians are sheltered in the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince, while 50 others have taken shelter elsewhere, he said. In total, 550 Canadians have been located.
There are 1,415 still missing, Cannon said.
Emmanuel Hilaire of Ottawa is taking his father off the missing-persons list. After days of desperate searching, fruitless phone calls and combing the internet, he received a text message from the 78-year-old at 5 a.m. on Friday.
"He told me everything was OK," Hilaire said.
Nerlande Jules of Montreal said her partner, Jean Lissade, is still on the list of missing Canadians. Through networking and pulling together shreds of information, Jules has learned he is alive but living on the street, with no identification, food or water.
"We know he is alive, but he is dying of hunger," she said.
Jules believes she knows more about Haitian conditions, sitting in her Montreal home, than Lissade does in the quake-ravaged streets of Port-au-Prince. But she can't find a way to tell him he should find a way to get to the Canadian Embassy or walk to his cousin's house in a nearby town, where he'll find food.
Canadians with family in Haiti can call the Foreign Affairs Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa at 800-387-3124 or 613-943-1055, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Canadians in Haiti can get in touch with Canadian Embassy officials in Port-au-Prince by calling 613-996-8885.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said 144 Canadian military personnel are now on the ground in Haiti, with more to come.
"The Canadian Forces have made good progress in establishing a footprint for staging search and rescue operations, relief efforts and aid delivery," MacKay said.
Canada may be preparing to send hundreds more military personnel to Haiti. The Canadian Press reported that 800 soldiers are on notice, but that they have not yet been given the nod to go by the federal government.
Four more flights were scheduled to arrive Friday, carrying rescue equipment, humanitarian supplies and additional RCMP and Canadian Forces members.
The longer-term plan is to send two big C-17 transports every day, with smaller C-130 Hercules aircraft making three flights every two days.
Two Canadian warships, HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Halifax, are expected to arrive in four days or so with additional relief equipment.
6 Canadians known dead
Six Canadians have been confirmed dead since the 7.0-magnitude quake struck: Guillaume Siemienski and Hélène Rivard, both with the Canadian International Development Agency, RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher of Nova Scotia, nurse Yvonne Martin of Elmira, Ont., and Montreal university professor Georges Anglade and his wife, Mireille.
Cannon said 13 Canadians are listed as injured.
About 6,000 Canadian citizens live in Haiti, but Cannon said earlier this week that only 700 were registered with the embassy in Port-au-Prince before the quake.
Among the Canadians reported missing is Supt. Doug Coates, a Mountie based at the force's Ottawa headquarters, according to RCMP spokeswoman Patricia Flood.
United Nations spokeswoman Alexandra Duguay and UN worker Jean-Philippe Laberge were also among Canadians unaccounted for.
There is confusion around the fate of Serge Marcil, a former Liberal MP believed to have been located after being reported missing in Haiti.
There were reports Marcil was found and flown to Miami for medical treatment. It now appears the reports were premature, according to the office of Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
Marcil's wife, Christiane Pelchat, had rushed down to Florida to reunite with Marcil at the hospital.
"When she arrived she saw that he wasn't there," said Beatrice Farand, a spokeswoman for Pelchat, who is the president of Quebec's Status of Women group.
"It was then, at the same time, when she learned that there had been an error. She's shattered."
Charest's office said a UN worker in Port-au-Prince had mistakenly listed Marcil's name among the survivors. The UN has since issued a correction. Marcil's son works in Charest's office.