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UN worker James Coates, 37, of Deer Lake, N.L., had been missing in Haiti since the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The body of a 37-year-old western Newfoundland man killed in Haiti's earthquake has been recovered.

James Coates, originally from Deer Lake, was working at the UN building in Port-au-Prince when the quake hit on Jan. 12. The five-storey building was destroyed.

A family member confirmed Friday that news arrived Thursday night that Coates's body was recovered from the UN building.

The family member, who did not want his name used, told CBC News that the family is devastated.

"While you have hope, you have hope, it doesn't matter how little," he said. "A lot of people have communicated with the family and offered their prayers, and we're very grateful for that."

Coates's body was recovered Wednesday and is currently at the UN office in the Dominican Republic. His family was told his body will be returned to Canada in two or three days.

Coates had worked as an assistant manager of information with the United Nations Mission in Haiti for the last year and a half.

He had been home in Newfoundland and Labrador for Christmas and returned to Haiti in early January.

Coates had been at his office, sending messages to a friend on Facebook when the quake struck.

'A great big heart'

John Nyssen, who knew Coates for nearly 20 years, told CBC News that his friend loved travel and adventure, and wanted to help people.

He met Coates on their first day at Laval University 18 years ago.

"Jim was one of my best friends, whenever we were together, it was always laughing, we were always laughing," Nyssen said.

He said Coates earned a French degree and wrote for an English newspaper in Quebec City for a time.

Coates worked in Africa and Vietnam before getting a position with the UN and being posted to Haiti.

"Jim had a great big heart and wanted to help people, and I think he looked at it as an opportunity to be able to help people."

But Nyssen said he didn't want his friend to go to Haiti.

"I told him you're going to get killed, or kidnapped, or whatever, and not thinking that it would be from an earthquake," he said.

The morning of the quake, Nyssen received an email from Coates. Nyssen tried to call Coates after the earthquake, but got no answer.

"The first couple of days, the glass was still half full, and they were pulling people out, and I was like, Jim is strong," he said.

Coates death raises the Canadian toll to 14, with 321 Canadians still missing. The total death toll has been estimated at 200,000.

Officials estimate two million Haitians have been left homeless by the quake. It is also believed that 250,000 need urgent aid.