13 January 2010 United States Providing Search-and-Rescue Assistance to Haiti, January 13, 2010
By Stephen Kaufman
Washington — The Obama administration is beginning its response to the January 12 earthquake that hit Haiti, sending search-and-rescue personnel and equipment to help the Haitian government with its immediate efforts to rescue earthquake survivors who may be trapped in debris.
Shortly after the earthquake struck, President Obama issued a statement saying, “My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake. We are closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti.”
The January 12 White House statement added that the president instructed his staff to verify the safety of U.S. embassy personnel in Haiti, and to “begin preparations in the event that humanitarian assistance is needed.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a statement from Hawaii, from where she is traveling to the Asia-Pacific region, and said the United States “is offering our full assistance to Haiti and to others in the region.”
“We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance,” Clinton said January 12. “And our prayers are with the people who have suffered, their families and their loved ones.”
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced January 12 that it has activated two U.S. search-and-rescue teams — one from Fairfax County, Virginia, and another from Los Angeles County, California — to assist Haitian rescue operations.
The teams are “composed of up to 72 personnel, 6 search and rescue canines and up to 48 tons of rescue equipment,” the USAID statement said. They will be accompanied by USAID disaster experts who will help with the assessment of the situation on the ground.
“This is a tragic situation and we will work alongside the Haitian government to provide immediate assistance in the rescue effort,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said in the statement.
According to initial news reports, the earthquake was measured at magnitude 7.0, and its epicenter was 15 kilometers from Haiti’s capital and largest city, Port-Au-Prince. Both the presidential palace and the headquarters of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were reportedly damaged, and an International Red Cross official told reporters that an estimated 3 million people need emergency assistance.
At the State Department, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley said January 12 that U.S. officials in Port-Au-Prince have reported significant damage, including collapsed structures and walls, and “a number of people injured and killed.”
Although U.S. embassy officials at the time were unable to assess the magnitude of the quake, “clearly, there’s going to be serious loss of life in this,” Crowley said.
He added that, as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti “will need an enormous amount of assistance.” Echoing President Obama and Secretary Clinton, Crowley said, “We are standing by to do whatever we can.”