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Haiti marks three years since major earthquake

The government in Haiti has held low-key ceremony to mark the third anniversary of a massive earthquake believed to have killed 316,000 people. More than 350,000 are still without homes since the disaster.

The Haitian government staged the comparatively muted commemoration of the 2010 earthquake that devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince, at the former site of the national palace.

The building has been rebuilt after it was destroyed by the magnitude 7.0 tremor. President Michel Martelly, who took office in May 2011, presided over the event.

Roughly 358,000 people are still living in makeshift camps scattered around the capital, having lost their homes in the disaster. That figure was around five times higher, however, in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Haiti's government estimates that 316,000 people died in the magnitude 7.0 quake, with its epicenter only around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The devastation prompted global pledges of aid for one of the world's most impoverished countries.

The European Union said on Saturday that its assistance had since benefitted half of all Haiti's 10 million citizens.

"Today as we take stock of our actions since the disaster, we are also reaffirming our long-term commitment to the Haitian people, whose recovery and sustainable development remain our priority," the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, said in a joint statement with Commissioners Kristalina Georgieva and Andris Piebalgs.

Georgieva heads the EU's humanitarian aid program while Piebalgs is development commissioner.

"Of course, there is still a long way to go," the commissioners conceded. "Recent events like tropical storm Isaac and hurricane Sandy make the recovery of Haiti even more difficult and highlight yet again the need to increase Haitians' resilience to natural disasters."

msh/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)