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Obama pledges $100 mn to Haiti

January 15, 2010

US President Barack Obama announced Thursday the US was providing an initial $100 million in aid to Haiti as military and civilian rescue teams arrived on the ground to search for survivors of the massive earthquake.

Obama called the Tuesday afternoon quake that struck Haiti “nothing less than devastating” and instructed all departments of the US government to make the rescue effort a top priority.

“One of the largest relief efforts in our recent history is moving towards Haiti,” Obama said in a speech at the White House. The $100 million will help pay for the rescue effort as well as provide food, water and medicine, Obama said.

“This investment will grow over the coming year as we embark on the long-term recovery from this unimaginable tragedy,” Obama said.

The scale of devastation remained unclear, but Haitian officials spoke of up to 100,000 dead from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that has wrecked the capital Port-au-Prince, home to some 1.9 million people.

To the people of Haiti, Obama said: “You will not be forsaken. You will not be forgotten.”

The US Navy was en route to Haiti. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was picking up supplies and heading to the vicinity, and an amphibious ship carrying 2,000 Marines was also on the way. The Pentagon said the Marines could be sent in if the security

environment deteriorates.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on US television a text messaging system set up by the State Department for individuals to donate $10 through the Red Cross has raised $3 million so far.

Several US states has sent rescue teams to help pull possible survivors from the rubble.

Meanwhile, Obama has asked former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to help US efforts and raise money to provide relief to Haiti, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

“Both of them have agreed to take part in this,” Gibbs said. A source close to Bush confirmed that the 43rd president was willing to partner with Clinton.

While in office, Bush tapped Clinton along with his father, former president George Bush, to help raise money after the 2004 tsunami that struck Southeast Asia.

Obama has asked his two predecessors “to come together in an effort similar to the one that was done for the tsunami,” Gibbs said.

Obama sharply criticized the 43rd president during his campaign and since taking office has continued to fault Bush’s policies. Clinton has been serving as the special UN envoy for Haiti.

US transportation authorities had also grounded all Haiti-bound flights amid a massive backlog at the Caribbean country’s main airport, which became the focal point Thursday of relief efforts underway after the massive earthquake.

The Haitian government has said it is currently not accepting any more flights into its airspace, forcing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ground all flights in the United States, a US government official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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