(Updated at 11:10 a.m. ET)
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama pledged Wednesday that the U.S. government would lead "a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives" in Haiti after that country's powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake.
Obama said U.S. relief efforts would be coordinated by the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Dr. Raj Shah.
He urged Americans trying to locate family members in Haiti to contact the State Department at phone number 888-407-4747.
"The reports and images that we've seen of collapsed hospitals, crumbled homes and men and women carrying their injured neighbors through the streets are truly heart-wrenching," the president said at the White House.
"For a country and a people who are no strangers to hardship and suffering, this tragedy seems especially cruel and incomprehensible."
Obama said U.S. relief efforts are currently focused on a quick accounting of U.S. embassy
personnel and their families in Port-au-Prince, as well as other American citizens living and working in Haiti.
The president noted that "military overflights have assessed the damage" from the earthquake and that civilian disaster assistance team were beginning to arrive in Haiti.
Search and rescue teams from Florida, Virginia and California will arrive on Wednesday and Thursday, he added.
"Because in disasters such as this the first hours and days are absolutely critical to saving lives and avoiding even greater tragedy, I have directed my teams to be as forward-leaning as possible in getting the help on the ground and coordinating with our international partners," he said.
Obama received two memorandums updating him on the situation in Haiti early Wednesday morning, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said. One of the memos, from the president's national security adviser, described "key decisions that have been made, and actions that have already been taken."
Obama also received an additional update from his national security staff Wednesday morning, Vietor added.
My heart goes out to the Haitian people. Some of you that are so critical of everything the President does have no idea how good we have it here in America. As for jobs, don't blame the President. Blame the private sector for cutting jobs that are not coming back. I know several companies that cut the workforce only to give the work to those that are still employed at the company. They have 1 person doing what 5-6 people used to do. Some companies are earning a good profit and still reducing their workforce. Let's face it some people spent more than they had and are paying the price. As an American I am embarrassed by some of these selfish comments about us helping a country that has been devastated by an earthquake. Take time and learn some history about the extreme poverty that others in the world face. You might realize how truly Blessed we are to be Americans. Stop being so selfish because you have it good, you just don'r know it.
The vile on this blog baffles my mind.
People are critical of Obama's quick response to this disaster vs. his response to the boxer-bomber???
Death estimates are upward of 100,000 for the earthquake, boxer-bomber deaths, zero....
Compassionate Conservatives (Republicans) are selfish idiots that need to check the other news sites before they spout off here….
Of course. Why not? You give so much of our money away anyway!
What more do you simple minded clowns think Obama should have done with the underwear bomber. I see you stopped your silly little three day comparison to Dubya's six days. You'd want the Pres to throw a tantrum and delcare war on under wear bombers!
You people are really a bunch of whinny little girlie-men. You're afraid of; black men, homeless people, women's clinics, religion, free-speech, clean air, clean water, Hispanics, gay people, people without guns, marijuana, organic food, endangered species, recycling, clean energy, single mothers, single fathers, married gay people, educated people, artists, nude people, urban people, enlightened people, meditation, and on and on.........is there anything you are not afraid of?
as expected, some of these comments are making my blood boil. You can NOT compare President Obama's response to a natural disaster to his response to attempted terrorist attacks. As it should be, he waited until he had received as much info and intel as he could to make a statement about the later. The former requires no such information. There was an earthquake. period. you people make me sick to my stomach.
tate January 13th, 2010 11:11 am ET
spend more money we dont have dumambo. Take care of this country first you idiot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Glad it only took you 12days to talk about terrorist attempt but as soon has another country gets in trouble you put out your cig and jump in front of telepromter to start reading what to say.
And your favorite chimp Bush did a smashing, bangup job of helping this country when Katrina hit RIGHT? The economy was a dam mess already and yet I didn't hear you barking like a brainless fool then, atleast Obama sounds intelligent, teleprompter or not, Retard Bush didn't NEED a teleprompter to sound stupid as hell, He still had one and mucked it up anyways. Go back to Fox Noise backwoods retard!
Wow. People complaining and politicizing this should be ashamed. My, heart goes out to those poor people. All you shallow, ignorant Republicans should try the same. It's amazing how Republicans spout at the mouth about being good Christians, yet when the administration moves to lend a hand to a neighbor, they complain and criticize. Truly unbelievable.
How come Iowa did not need help when the floods were worste than katrina. I also dont remeber citizens shooting at helicopters. Wonder why that is?
Actually Dutch, you give Bush too much credit for responding, it actually took almost 2 weeks before anything significant was done to help Katrina victims.
It's God's will! Maybe if they weren't so lazy.
LacrosseMom(stuck in moderation) January 13th, 2010 11:08 am ET
This earthquake has demolished Haiti, we need to help. Catholic Charities & Red Cross are taking donations, if we all gave $10 or $20 bucks it would help tremendously.
LacrosseMom, you rock! I donated $10 thru my cellphone this morning to helping those in Haiti by texting HAITI and then typing in the body, 90999. This will automatically charge $10 to your cell phone bill and will go to helping those in Haiti.
I can't belive all of the hate in these comments, this is in no way comparable to the terrorist threat. Information is needed to comment on things like that. When people are trapped under tons of concret there is no need of information, just action. You people make me sick with all your crying. Yes people are homeless here and loosing their house, at least there are shelters they can go to and food banks they can go to, but when half of your country go destroyed by a disaster there isn't many places to run to.
The responses on here in support of not helping Haiti make me sick! Literally. What the hell have we come to! Does anybody remember, it was the Berlin Airlift after WWII that quickly ascended our US Air Force to what it is today! It wasn't about jobs or war, it was about help! This is the problem with blogs like these! People spend their time hating! So tell me what good it would do to have a whole nation suffer under this event? And for those people who say Haiti has nothing to offer, Pick up the movie the Amistad! It is filled with a reminder of what dues have been paid before this day! Help a country in need! No bombs are dropping or guns being fired! Just people dying because they were too poor to build their cities. CNN, I wish somebody there had a heart! And a heart enough to highlight the hate that gets printed in comment sections such as these!