January 13th, 2010
11:10 AM ET
8 years ago

Obama orders 'swift' response to Haiti earthquake

(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.

Filed under: Haiti • President Obama
soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. ATL Guy

    $10 that the Republicans politicize this.....

    January 13, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  2. Dutch the Great

    Hurricane Katrina response = 5 days

    Haiti response = 1 day

    January 13, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  3. HeirJordan

    Is there anyway we can mobilize these retired War Birds one more time; this time for a peace keeping/relief effort mission to Haiti. We should use cruise ships as well. These huge ships can carry tons of supplies and provide temporary shelter to thousands. I am seeking aircraft carriers because the top of the ship can support tent cities. We also need to call on GM. A tremendous amount of trucks will be needed. The task force at the White House can send aide workers to interview the survivors to asses their talents, thus freeing up our aide workers to help the hardest hit areas. The native people can maintain the services on the ships and clean them up when all this is over. We need to show improvement since hurricane Katrina. The world is arranging a budget that will reach a billion in aide so we have the money. We need to spend it wisely. We can return the Warships to the museum and refurbish the ships when all this is over. This will not only create jobs and revenue for the museum effort, but give us a chance to be effective change agents for the people in need. I have a detailed plan available. I can coordinate this for us if necessary. You are the leaders we are waiting on and I know by blogging you an action campaign will be successful.
    Thank you

    USS Hornet, Alameda, California, USA USS Intrepid, New York, New York, USA USS Lexington, Corpus Christi, Texas, USA USS Midway, San Diego, CA, USA USS Yorktown, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, USA

    January 13, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  4. Chris W

    Obama, how 'bout taking every single penny of the announced bonus bonanza for the bankers of Wall Street that the American taxpayers delivered with a bow on top to their tony Manhattan digs and forcing them to hand it ALL over so we can "bail out" these people trapped under rubble, many of whom are Americans? Lets get our priorities straight here people. I read an article on Money Magazine about how these bankers couldn't decide to spend their bonuses on a "new home in what country" or to get Botox and we have people living like Puerto Prince on our own doorstep. The American working and middle class will step up to help Haiti while our own government fleeces our other pocket to feed these corporate criminals.... God help the West, our civilization is in tatters...

    January 13, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  5. tamara baguidy

    im happy for the support we are getting from the world. But i am sick and tired of hearing how poor my country is. Less then 25 years ago its was one of the greatest islands in the caribbeans. We've had bad governments who have put Haiti in this situation. WE ARE NOT the poorest country, a 7.0 earthquake would have the same affect in any country rich or poor...... we just need supports from the world, not criticism.

    January 13, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  6. Aspen Professor

    I am certainly no geologist but doesn't there seem to be an increasing number of earthquakes throughout the world? You have to wonder when the huge earthquake will hit our west-coast and the St. Louis area. I did not know until recently that there was a huge fault that runs through the St. Louis area. A rupture of either or both of those faults could be devasting.

    January 13, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. K H in St. Louis

    So you’re a VP candidate, a heart-beat away from the presidency, and you aren’t up to speed on an issue (why we’re fighting a war!)—what does a former beauty contestant do??? Your party (Cheney/Bush) is running the show and your presidential running mate is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and member of the Homeland Security Committee. Not to mention an endless supply of briefs available to you from a plethora of conservative think tanks. But Heaven forbid picking up a document and reading it, let alone reading many documents and coming to your own conclusion!!! Why not talk to the campaign manager??? Surely he will know what you should know….

    Oh—and by the way—you're a perfect fit for FOX ….

    January 13, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  8. Ron in California

    For as much as we are villifed in the world...the USA is always the first to lend a hand. God Bless America and the Hatians.

    January 13, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  9. BigCHill

    If it was Bush , we would still be waiting to see what everyone else is going to do 1st. Nice job.

    January 13, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  10. LacrosseMom(stuck in moderation)

    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.

    January 13, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  11. Eric Prince II

    Takes him weeks to make a statement with regard to Ft. Hood, then again more absurd delay with regard to the Christmas Day Delta Airline plot, yet no time to jump all over this one. Dangerous and unfit for the office he holds!

    January 13, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  12. ThinkAgain

    My heart goes out to the people of Haiti; I hope the whole world comes quickly to their aid and does all they can to alleviate their suffering and begin rebuilding.

    January 13, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  13. tate

    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.

    January 13, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  14. Jim

    $5 says Obama response to Haiti faster than Bush responded to Katrina.

    January 13, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  15. Scott, Tucson

    Send Joe Biden to lead the U.S. assistance in Haiti, he's the smartest man in America...he said so himself.

    January 13, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. JB - NYC

    Barry, get that printing press ready..

    January 13, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  17. Peejay

    I can't wait to read comments from the usual suspects who don't think we should help because we have our own problems, and whose vocabularies don't contain the word "humanitarian".

    January 13, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  18. marta-texas

    If only swift response had been available during Katrina, instead of the posturing and aimless activity we saw during the Bush adm.

    January 13, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  19. Jane/Seattle

    Commendable! My question is why no one seems to care about these suffering places BEFORE such a disaster occurs? There is an excellent discussion about Haiti (and other societies that choose policies leading to extinction) and the conditions created there that have made them the most poor in this hemisphere.

    This book is called, "Threshold" by Thom Hartmann. How much debt does Haiti owe due to the "helping" hands of The World Bank and the Int'l Monetary Fund? Same for Katrina, Darfur and other places! Why do governments step up some vital aid mostly when dreadful events happen and not work faithfully to help resolve these conditions now? Worth looking into, folks.

    January 13, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  20. DALE

    Of couse this is a poor nation with no oil, so let's she how many Repubs that tout their Christian charity jump on board.

    January 13, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  21. Joe

    Haiti is yet another case of closing the barn door after all the horses have escaped. The warnings were there. I wonder what would happen if Haiti had oil reserves.

    January 13, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  22. Vietnam Combat Veteran, Ohio

    What about the disaster in our own country? Aren't we a "country and a people that are no strangers to hardship and suffering"? Look arouind at home here and rush to help our own people!!! I don't see any country helping us!!! How about someone feeding our poor! What a crock!!

    January 13, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  23. Vietnam Combat Veteran, Ohio

    I used to have compassion, but our politicians have drained it all out of me. Sin loi cum co sow!!!

    January 13, 2010 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  24. all the news that's fit to omit

    Totally feel for the people of Haiti and we should help them as much as possible.

    The question is will Bill Clinton still campaign for Martah Coakely on Friday or will he do his job as US rep to Haiti?

    What do you people think?

    January 13, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  25. A. Goodwin

    Wish Obama was the president during Katrina...I am sure things would have been better and lives would have been saved.

    It makes me sick to my stomache to think of how we treated those affected by Katrina. Shame on our former president Bush and all of the people involved in that debacle!

    January 13, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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