January 13th, 2010
11:10 AM ET
13 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. shmeckell

    What a tragedy, thank God the airport is up and running.

    January 13, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  2. Fitz in Texas

    When Italy was hit by a major earthquake a year ago right before the major summit...the Obama administration only offered $50,000.00 in recovery aid. Now he's offering and all out effect and it appears the sky is the limit. Wonder why so little to the poor people of Italy?

    January 13, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  3. La Chatte

    While I'm glad Obama has pledged quick aid to Haiti, I'd sure like to see him accomplish ANYTHING he promised he would do if elected. Let's start with the war budget for those wars he was going to end by waving his pompoms and playing nice. Just today he's asked for more. A small piece of that would a long way to not only helping Haiti, but to helping Americans– and I don't mean those financial sector CEOs who will no doubt still get hefty bonuses.

    January 13, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  4. kayjay

    I am not touched by the President's very swift and generous response to the quake in Haiti. I am all for helping one's neighbor, but we have plent of neighbors right here at homelosing homes, losing jobs, without heat and trying to figure out how to feed the family and keep the heat on. It took the President three days to respond to an attempted terrorist attack, but he was quick to pledge 100 mill. to the people of another country. Charity begins at home and the U.S. needs to take care of it's own first.

    January 13, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  5. jack in denver

    Boy the people of Haiti sure are lucky not to have controlling government intruding into their personal lives with sill things like building codes. Hopefully in the future some opressive goverment will save their lives weather they like it or not.

    January 13, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  6. J.P.

    If only Haiti had "universal healthcare" to save them from their plight.

    January 13, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  7. 31m-PA

    Took Obambi 3 days to respond to the Christmas Day bomber, but 30 minutes to the Haiti earthquake. Interesting.

    January 13, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  8. T'SAH from Virginia

    WE have to get over there FAST and help these people!!!! I am in so many tears just watching the devastation there and the children crying!!!

    If my job would allow me to take off from work I would go there and help.... My heart and prayers goes out to the families that are suffering there and may the departed RIP!!!

    January 13, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. Alfred

    But he takes three days to address any attempted terror attack on our country...

    January 13, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. Michael

    Spending US money to clean up Haiti, can we clean up New Orleans or other disaster areas in the US FIRST PLEASE!

    January 13, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. Jane

    Now, How about a swift response to help the unemplyed Americans?

    January 13, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  12. unemployed by Obama

    What about JOBS in America, really swift work for our country, Obama spends our money on others before he even helps this country. Just shows Obama's true color and actions.

    January 13, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. michael

    Is it possible that this earthquake is the result of the experiment done by those mad scietists who tries to do some particle collusion experiments?

    January 13, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  14. Susan

    It's a good to see an Administration that is "on the job" when it comes to an earth shattering event, be it foreign or domestic. They should be commended.

    January 13, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  15. Donkey Party

    Thank you President Obama for your prompt and generous offer of support to the nation of Haiti and its' people. Your swift attention gives me further confidence your administration will not wallow in it's own ineptitude like the previous administration did during natural disasters (Katrina, Iowa floods).

    January 13, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  16. sickofthelibs

    too bad he wasn't as swift in his response to the attempted attack on OUR own country by underwear bomber...but I guess the man needed his vacation...afterall the leader of the freeworld shouldn't be expected to work 24/7

    January 13, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. Look to God...that's real help

    Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me , and I will hearken untno you. Jeremiah 29:12

    We , America, have a moral and spiritual obligation to help those in Haiti. This is the poorest of the poor, God's children. I pray we do our best with our resources in helping them.

    I also pray that Doctors Without Borders is given financial relief through the US Government as they are acting advocates for the poor.

    God help them.

    January 13, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  18. michael



    January 13, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  19. P F

    Wow. 3 months to decide on Afghanistan, a few days to think about what to say about the "jockey" bomber, and "let's not rush to conclusions" after the Ft. Hood massacre. But have a serious happening in Haiti, and he is on TV in less than 24 hrs. I guess it was because he didn't have to decide anything. Basically, "key decisions that have been made, and actions that have already been taken." I bet he wishes the rest of his "decision" making was this easy.

    January 13, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. TOTUS 4 President

    Sadly for citizens of this poor country, Senate Majority leader Reid prefers light-skinned blacks with a "non-Negro" accent.

    January 13, 2010 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  21. rachel

    I am glad the state department and whitehouse are up on this. State departement rightway with the number to try and find people and aid and the white house's response. The people complaining about his quick response here. The people in Haiti have less than nothing lets not complain about trying to save their lives.

    January 13, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. dustin

    its amazing people are comparing a response time from a natural disaster to response time on terrorism and a war. Those are complex issues where you want to know the facts of who was behind it before you go spouting off at the mouth, this is an earthquake where some are saying over 100,000 dead, the only enemy here is time.

    January 13, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. once upon a horse

    if truth holds to form no matter what the president does the GOP won't like nor support it and the Cheney's will accuse him of taking his eye off the current terror threat we are suppose to be under. Let Haiti deal with it's own troubles we have to to take care of ours right? You betcha!

    January 13, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  24. Chris in NY

    I can't wait for all the teabaggers and conservatives to start asking how we will pay for all this aid.

    January 13, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  25. all the news that's fit to omit

    Just cut a check, as that is all you sheep no how to do.

    Still blaming Bush for Katrina when a DEMOCRATIC MAYOR and a DEMOCRATIC "GUBNER" said they were all set and the plan that was in place for the "chocolate city" didn't get carried out by TWO DEMOCRATS "in charge".

    Facts are tricky things.

    I pray for the people in Haiti.

    January 13, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
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