Obama says US won't forsake Haiti quake victims
Obama said he had dispatched U.S. troops and ships to Haiti to assist in earthquake rescue and recovery efforts.
President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he had dispatched U.S. troops and ships to Haiti to assist in earthquake rescue and recovery efforts and told the Haitian people, "You will not be forsaken."
Obama said in a televised statement that the United States would spend $100 million for immediate relief efforts from the earthquake that is believed to have killed tens of thousands of people.
At the same time, officials close to former President George W. Bush said that he and former President Bill Clinton, who is already a United Nations special envoy for Haiti, had agreed to help the quake relief effort.
One source familiar with the situation said Obama had talked by phone with Bush on Wednesday night about helping out.
Clinton and Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, joined in a huge international relief effort to help the recovery from the 2004 tsunami that swept South Asia and killed 226,000 in 13 countries after an earthquake in Indonesia.
Obama, facing the biggest test of international relief since taking office a year ago, said he had directed his administration to launch "a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives and support recovery in Haiti."
"To the people of Haiti, we say clearly and with conviction, you will not be forsaken. You will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you. The world stands with you," Obama said.
Working against time to save as many lives as possible and help Haitians dig out of the rubble, the United States is sending some elements of its armed forces to the impoverished island nation.
Several Coast Guard cutters are already there providing basic services like water and technical support for a massive logistical operation.
"Elements of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division will arrive today. We're also deploying a Marine expeditionary unit, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, and the Navy's hospital ship, the Comfort," Obama said.
In a show of support for Haiti, Obama was joined when he made his statement by key leaders of his administration, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama, who had been criticized for waiting a few days to speak publicly in response to the Christmas Day attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane, said he had made it clear to the officials that Haiti "must be a top priority for their departments and agencies right now."
"This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership," he said.
Reuters Last Mod: 14 Ocak 2010, 18:57