(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.
Thank you Mr. President,at least you werent reading "My Pet Goat",like the last guy in office.
we only have trillions of other problems
Brazil sending truck loads of food and water right away is a quick response. Obama saying U.S. relief efforts would be coordinated by the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Dr. Raj Shah is not a quick response. I'm pretty sure George Orwell would agree.
"OBAMA ORDERS 'SWIFT' RESPONSE..."
Boy, that headline makes President Obama look good, adding tons of gold to the value of his carefully honed image, preparing displays for his presidential library, and creating lore for his mythical legacy.
How's the President going to pay for what he swiftly (!) ordered?
This President got it. Move swiftly to help our neighbors especially the ones who cannot help themselves. I bet Mr. Cheney would have encouraged his boss to take a wait-and-see approach. Wait for the American Red Cross to gather intel and report back then see if the earthquake was a terrorist plot.
Wow, much quicker than the attempted airline bombing, good show.
Tragic. :( I wish Haiti all the best in their re-building efforts.
Please pray for the victims of Haiti's earthquake. LaPriye pou tout moun Ayiti.
Its amazing how quick his response has been considering he stayed in Hawaii on his vacation following the terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines. And how he stayed silent after the terrorist shootings in Texas. Even more amazing how this president's priorities are not with mainstream America.
In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."
I dare any one of you white, conservative, evangelical Republicans to start criticizing our President for sending relief to Haiti.
Let's see how religious you are now.
These are the times when swift action is called for to save lives and limit human suffering. Thank you to our Prsident, Fairfax County Fire & rescue, and everyone else who steps up to help our neighbors in Haiti.
I'm sure the shameless people who "blame America first" will have some nasty comments and want us to say "NO", but that's the cold hearted "for-profit-only" response that we have come to expect from them.
A swift response is appropriate for the earthquake, why not for the terrorist attack on the Detroit ariliner? Out of touch and messed up priorities.
New Gallup poll shows 40% approve of how Obama is handling the economy and 56 disapprove. 37% approve of how he is handling health care reform and 58% disapprove. These are his two biggest policy agendas.
He now claims 2 million jobs created or saved by stimulus, yet each month more jobs are lost then created. There has been a lose of over 2 million jobs since the stiumuls was passed and unemployment has risen to 10%, not decreased. How can it have created jobs? Obama won't improve his approval ratings by making obvious wild and exagerated claims.
Finally someone who cares about people other than those crossing South of the Border. I speak this as a Californian that has watched our economy collapse. I suppose probably because of the large number of illegal immigrants in the state. First it was our health care facilities, all of the state of the art schools for them (not US citizens). In Los Angeles the only children that receive anything are those that are born to illegal immigrants. The Mayor and the Board insures nothing but the best for this group. It is outrageous and of course the news outlets turn the other way. And now our economy?
The Government in the past always shipped the Haitians back immediately. There was no 'touch the soil' and you can stay for them like the Cubans and Mexicans. I am glad to know that at least during this time the US will not be deporting any Haitians. (at least not today).
I like it when America does this sort of work. I think we should try to set up an international task force made up of people and funding from around the world that is ready to respond to natural disasters like these.
Wow, Obama read two memos. Brilliant! I'm sure the Haitians feel better already. Perhaps we can even get a teleproptor speach out of him today as well. Wouldn't that be special. Hopefully Barry will be smart enough not to send aid direct to the totally corrupt Haitian government, but i wouldn't count on it.
MY HEART GO OUT TO HATI BUT NO ONE IS TRYING TO TAKE CARE OF AMERICA PEOPLES WHO ARE LOOSING EVERINGTHING WE WORK EVERYDAY AND STILL STAY IN RED...I HOPE OUR PRESIDENT TAKE A LOOK AT PROGRAM FOR HOME OWNER I APPLY FOR HELP AND WAS TURN DOWN-MY HOME HAD DECREASE IN VALUE AND I'M STILL PAYING TAX ON HOME THAT NOT WORTH PAPER IT'S WRITTEN ON
CAN SOMEONE PLEASE HELP
This is the only thing he could respond quickly too, it’s where he has experience; he is a community organizer / social worker. Everything else the teleprompter president does fails.
higher home foreclosure rate
the “Porkulus” Spending bill
out of control budget
health care reform disaster
Nice to be able to help out, but what about home? New Orleans is in dire need of Federal help to clean up after Katrina. A "shovel ready"
project that would put many Americans to work and a city that's waiting to be rebuilt!
Obama's ordered it but does he know how to carry it out. If he does then someone has caused this nation to take one giant leap forward for mankind. But don't look for anything different.
how come he waited 3 days after the undie bomber to talk when that was an aatck on the US and he responds to this foreign event immeditaely?
Cause he hates america and haitians are black.
This President acts quickly and with sound judgment. Now this is CHANGE I keep believing in.
So sad this has happened and my heart and prayers go out to these poor people.
I'm glad we're doing what we can to help, however, I hope we're not the only country that gives so much and others give so little.
Also, giving Obama's recent broken promises to the American people I would suggest the Haitians get his word in writing.
You mean obama is not going to take a vacation before he thinks about what he should do?
The actions of our president in this crises with Haiti is outstanding this is a good way to get my vote in 2012 keep up the good work commander. .
While I applaud our efforts to assist Haiti at this crucial time, I can't help but wonder what the people still homeless, jobless and helpless in New Orleans are thinking? It would be nice if the government would step up the assistance there as well.