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Report on ongoing relief efforts
The State Department tweets that Americans have now donated more than $9 million for Haiti relief via text message.
"It's shattered any record that we've seen with mobile giving before," the Red Cross's social media manager told CNN. CNN said the Red Cross was stunned by the level of digital fundraising. The current figure more is more than double the $4 million that was donated to all charities by text message during 2009, the Red Cross said.
See how much major corporations are donating here.
Wireless companies are responding to the unprecedented number of text message donations by expediting them to ensure they reach their destination much faster than usual, according to the New York Times' Bits blog. Typically it can take weeks, even months, for such donations to reach the intended aid organization, as CNN noted today. But as a Verizon spokesman told the Times:
"We are bypassing our normal financing accounting and checks and balances. We're doing it because the humanitarian need is immediate."
Verizon says it has so far transmitted $3 million in aid to the American Red Cross; Sprint reported having transmitted $1.2 million to a variety of charities.
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7:30 PM ET: Fear that time is running out -- The latest from the AP paints an increasingly desperate picture:
Pushed to the far edge of desperation, earthquake-ravaged Haitians dumped decaying bodies into mass graves and begged for water and food Friday amid fear that time is running out to avoid chaos and to rescue anyone still alive in the wreckage.
The U.S. military brought some relief, taking control of the airport, helping coordinate flights bringing in aid and evacuating foreigners and the injured. Medical teams, meanwhile, set up makeshift hospitals, workers started to clear the streets of corpses and water was being distributed in pockets of the city.
But the task was enormous.
Aid workers and authorities warned that unless they can quickly get aid to the people, Port-au-Prince will degenerate into lawlessness.
7:15 PM ET: U.S. General says world has an "opportunity" in Haiti
6:35 PM ET: Photos of bodies being pulled in the streets -- There have been a good number of truly haunting images coming out of Haiti from the many photographers doing essential journalism down there (Damon Winter's on front of the New York Times this morning was particularly striking.) Here's a slideshow from TIME that provides a good overview of the events of the last few days.
6:30 PM ET: Clinton heading to Haiti Saturday -- From the AP:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she is heading to Haiti to inspect the damage from this week's devastating earthquake firsthand.
Clinton will travel with USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah Saturday. She plans to meet with President Rene Preval and other Haitian officials.
She says she will inspect U.S. relief efforts. Clinton says she wants to convey to the Haitian people "our long term, unwavering support, solidarity and sympathies."
6:25 PM ET: U.S. could take larger security role in Haiti -- From the AP:
The top U.S. military officer is leaving open the possibility of a growing security role for U.S. forces if desperation turns to violence in Haiti, a risky undertaking in a country that was chaotic even before this week's devastating earthquake.
U.S. forces sent to Haiti to help relief efforts are operating under what two military officials said Friday is an adaptation of standard military rules of engagement that allows for self-defense even though the Pentagon does not expect a need for it. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to characterize the confidential rules.
6:20 PM ET: Search for relief grows more desperate -- From the AP:
Pockets of looting flared across the capital. Small bands of young men and teenagers with machetes roaming downtown streets helped themselves to whatever they could find in wrecked homes.
"They are scavenging everything. What can you do?" said Michel Legros, 53, as he waited for help to search for seven relatives buried in his collapsed house. A Russian search-and-rescue team said the general insecurity was forcing them to suspend their efforts after nightfall.
"The situation in the city is very difficult and tense," said team chief Salavat Mingaliyev, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.
5:35 PM ET: Obama grants Temporary Protected Status to Haitians The Obama administration, which earlier this week imposed a temporary halt on deportations for Haitian immigrants with expulsion orders, has now granted them Temporary Protected Status, which will allow them to stay and work in the country for 18 months.
5:15 PM ET: Relief work in high gear -- The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at how relief groups are working around the clock to reach victims of the earthquake:
Teams from across the world have been arriving in Haiti since the first hours after the quake. Many have not gotten any more than a few minutes of sleep, if any. The more than 20 countries here - in addition to the UN, World Bank, and numerous private groups - have already pledged aid to Haiti. Brazil is dispatching aircraft with food and water, Cuba has sent 30 doctors, and Israel dispatched a rescue staff of 240. At the Port-au-Prince airport, military planes from Venezuela and Colombia had landed, bringing in supplies.
4:45 PM ET: Should Haitians be given special status due to the earthquake? TIME's Carmen Gentile asks the question:
Unlike undocumented immigrants from similarly troubled countries, those from the island nation detained by U.S. immigration officials have quickly been ordered to be deported back. Now, the catastrophe may lead the Obama Administration to reconsider the controversial policy. Indeed, soon after the earthquake, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano imposed a temporary halt to deportations, allowing 30,000 Haitians with expulsion orders to remain in the U.S.
Until the President decides otherwise, however, the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that grants a semblance of asylum to migrants from six countries will still exclude those from Haiti.
4:30 PM ET: Missing NYU students found -- We wrote yesterday about two NYU students who were said to be missing following the earthquake. Happy to report that they were both found safe today.
USAforHaiti RT @clarlune: RT @yveno76: URGENT Rescue team needed at lycee Anacaona Leogane students are still trapped.. Please RT... #rescuemehaiti
4:20 PM ET: American doctor rescued -- A 65-year-old American doctor from New Jersey who was trapped in Port-au-Prince's Hotel Montana has been rescued after 50 hours buried in the rubble. Sarla Chand, who is from Teaneck, was freed by French firefighters. CBS has a report:
3:55 PM ET: Miracle amid the rubble -- The New York Daily News has a moving story about a four-year-old boy who was rescued three days after being buried alive inside his home.
3:45 PM ET: France asks creditors to cancel debt -- From the AP:
France on Friday urged Haiti's creditors to speed efforts to cancel the impoverished Caribbean nation's debt, a stranglehold that began two centuries ago when Napoleon demanded reparations for the island's independence.
In 1825, France demanded 150 million francs in gold as reparations for lands lost by former slave owners. Haiti took massive loans from American, German and French banks at exorbitant rates of interest to pay back France.
3:30 PM ET: Trapped woman rescued -- Raw video of a woman being pulled from the rubble at a collapsed shopping center by a search and rescue team from Iceland yesterday.
3:20 PM ET: Streets full of bodies -- AP has aerial footage of the streets of Haiti, where bodies can be seen lying everywhere.
Some more aerial footage, this time surveying the destruction as of today:
3:00 PM ET: Americans desperate to leave Haiti -- AP has footage of a tense scene at the airport where people are trying to get out of Haiti. U.S. citizens were frantically waiving their passports as U.S. soldiers who were trying to sort out people to be evacuated.
2:30 PM ET: Pelosi says earthquake may give Haiti "fresh start" -- Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today she hopes US aid to the country would help it achieve a "new, fresh start," while acknowledging that it was a "very sad time":
"From my own experience with earthquakes, being from San Francisco, I think that this can be an opportunity for a real boom economy in Haiti," Pelosi said.
2:20 PM ET: Obama says "we will do what it takes"
11:30 AM ET: Update on relief efforts -- A round-up of reports:
--A White House spokesman announced that as of this morning Americans have donated more than $8 million for Haiti relief via text message. The donation system, set up by the Red Cross and the State Department, allows people to donate $10 at a time by texting HAITI to 90999. For more information on how you can help, visit HuffPost's Impact page.
--UN says 6,000 pounds of food is to be distributed, and that earlier reports of looting at its warehouse were overblown
--Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says 9,000 - 10,000 US troops will be in Haiti by Monday to help distribute aid.
--U.N. aid organizations plan to launch an emergency appeal to raise $550 million, a spokeswoman said today.
--Comcast says it will donate $1 million to disaster relief.
--Madonna announced that she has donated $250,000 for disaster relief, and is asking others to match her.
11:00 AM ET: Why it's so hard to get relief into Haiti -- Simply landing at the airport is a major logistical challenge, the AP says:
U.S. military air traffic controllers are scrambling to keep earthquake aid flowing into the Haitian capital without the use of a control tower or radar, and amid struggles over fuel, tarmac space and even staircases to access planes.
With all the hurdles facing rescue and relief efforts in this shattered city, it appears the first to overcome are at its major entry point for supplies. U.S. federal officials halted nonmilitary flights for eight hours Thursday at the request of the Haitian government, leaving dozens of planes circling.
10:55 AM ET: U.S. troops arriving -- AP has some raw video of US troops arriving in Haiti this morning, as well as footage of them helping those who are injured.
10:50 AM ET: "We can all do something" -- First Lady Michelle Obama releases a public service announcement telling people what they can do to help.
10:45 AM ET: Donations on track to break record -- USA Today reports that the level of giving to Haiti is on course to exceed the private donations made in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami in Asia. After Katrina, Americans gave a total of $6.47 billion in private donations.
10:30 AM ET: Where will all the money go? -- AP takes a look at the difficulties in channeling relief money to Haiti:
Haiti has received billions of dollars in taxpayer and private aid from the United States and others, yet is so poor that few homes had safe drinking water, sewage disposal or electricity even before the earthquake. With sympathetic donors around the world sending money, making sure that aid is spent properly will be a challenge.
Corruption, theft and other crime and Haiti's sheer shortage of fundamentals -- reliable roads, telephone and power lines and a sound financial system -- add to the difficulty as foreign governments and charities try not only to help Haiti recover from the disaster but pull itself out of abject poverty.
It is one of the poorest places on Earth. Most basic public services are lacking, people typically live on less than $2 a day, nearly half the population is illiterate and the government has a history of instability. The public has little opportunity to be sure that aid to the government is used honestly and well. Nor is following the money easy for donors, including the United States, 700 miles away and one of the country's biggest helpers.
10:15 AM ET: $8 million for Haiti relief -- A White House spokesman announced that as of this morning Americans have donated more than $8 million for Haiti relief via text message. The donation system, set up by the Red Cross and the State department, allows people to donate $10 at a time by texting HAITI to 90999. For more information on how you can help, visit HuffPost's Impact page.
10:00 AM ET: Burying the dead -- As mentioned last night, the Miami Herald filed a heartbreaking report about the overwhelming scene at the Port-au-Prince morgue. According to Haitian President Rene Preval, the government has managed to remove around 7,000 corpses from the streets and morgues in order to bury them in mass graves.
Here's a report from Reuters about the bodies piled up in the streets. The narrator compares the scene to that of a war zone.
9:30 AM ET: Reporters reflect on what's gone on -- Jonathan Katz, an AP correspondent in Port-au-Prince, has written a moving reflection on the last few days in Haiti and how they've redefined the country's relationship to tragedy. Here's an excerpt:
The city is a ruin. Fuel, food and water are running in short supply. Mothers have lost their children. Children have lost their families. Entire neighborhoods are sleeping in the streets. People walk miles up and down mountains, carrying everything they own, with no real place to go.
But here is what is new: You have perhaps seen the pictures of the national palace smashed into a lurching heap over the grassy Champs de Mars. Or of the collapsed twin spires of the Notre Dame d'Haiti cathedral complex, which claimed the life of the archbishop. Or of the collapsed parliament where the senate president remained trapped Wednesday.
Imagine if nearly all the institutions in your life -- flawed, but still the only ones -- disappeared, all at once.
In a life where the next meal is uncertain, where the next rain may claim your home, where the next election may happen or not -- where that is the normal. Think of having those institutions smashed all around you.
At the very moment when you have lost someone, perhaps many people, you loved.
In the video below, another AP reporter, Rich Matthews, talks about how you "can't escape the death" in Haiti. He says he was unprepared for the chaotic scene he encountered when he landed at the airport. The smell from the dead bodies is so bad that you can taste it, Matthews says: "Today, I tasted death."
9:20 AM ET: Aftershocks -- Port-au-Prince was rocked by a strong aftershock at around 5:00 AM ET this morning, Reuters reports. A video report from the AP:
8:50 AM ET: The ongoing struggle to deliver aid -- Nearly every news account of the situation in Haiti this morning has focused on the difficulty of the relief effort. "Haitian Rescue Stymied Amid Chaos," the Wall Street Journal writes; "Tensions Mount in Devastated Capital as Aid Starts to Reach Haiti," is the headline leading the New York Times' website. As the AP wrote this morning: "More and more Friday, the focus fell on the daunting challenge of getting food and water to millions of survivors."
Among the problems listed by the Journal: "A badly damaged seaport, a congested one-runway airport, a shattered communications system and difficulty coordinating the aid have delayed relief efforts." A spokesman for the UN Mission in Haiti told the AP that Haitians are beginning to run out of patience. "Unfortunately, they're slowly getting more angry and impatient," the spokesman said. "I fear, we're all aware that the situation is getting more tense as the poorest people who need so much are waiting for deliveries. I think tempers might be frayed."
As mentioned earlier, looters have broke into the UN's food warehouse Haiti. And, according to the Times, the Haitian National Police force has all but disappeared.
8:45 AM ET: Aristide looking to return -- The former president, currently exiled in Africa, says he's ready to head to Haiti:
In a rare public appearance, Aristide told reporters at a hotel next to Johannesburg's airport that he and his family are ready to return to Haiti to help with the catastrophe. He said friends, whom he did not name, are willing to provide a plane to fly him to Haiti with medical supplies and other emergency equipment.
"As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, share in their suffering, help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity," said Aristide, his wife Mildred next to him, eyes downcast, twisting a handkerchief.
8:40 AM ET: US military personnel arrive -- This morning's update:
More than 300 troops of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division arrived at the Port au Prince airport overnight and others have arrived in nearby waters on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen told ABC's "Good Morning America."
"We have much more support on the way. Our priority is getting relief out to the needy people," he said.
About 5,500 U.S. soldiers and Marines are expected to be in Haiti by Monday.
8:30 AM ET: Food warehouse looted -- From the AP:
Looters have broken into U.N. food warehouses in Haiti's crumbled capital, an official said Friday, as security and logistical challenges mounted for groups trying to feed at least 2 million people reeling from a devastating earthquake.
The U.N. World Food Program had 15,000 tons of food aid in Haiti prior to Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake, stocks designed for hurricane relief. Spokeswoman Emilia Casella said local partners reported that the U.N. warehouse in Port-au-Prince's Cite Soleil neighborhood was looted but the agency did not know how much aid was stolen or exactly when it was taken.
FRIDAY, 12:17 AM ET: Two-year-old boy rescued, reunited with parents --
The Houston Chronicle's photo editors led with the photo in a gallery of the day's top pictures.
A Spanish rescuer holds 2-year-old Redjeson Hausteen Claude, as his father Reginald Claude, left, looks on in Port-au-Prince, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Spanish and Belgian rescuers pulled Claude from the rubble of Tuesday's earthquake. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Eight photos by AP photographer Gerald Herbert show Claude's rescue and reunion with his mother.
Redjeson Hausteen Claude reacts to his mother Daphnee Plaisin, after his rescue.
11:27 PM ET: Cries grow faint -- The AFP profiles one unorganized group's efforts to rescue a woman crying from beneath the rubble:
PORT-AU-PRINCE - Almost 48 hours after the shattered concrete ceiling of her cousin's dress store crashed down upon her, Maryse's faltering cries galvanised a crowd of rescuers...
"They're going to die. They're going to die," spat 30-year-old accountancy student Jean Rald Rocher, fiddling with the paper face mask that was his only protective gear as he dug for rotting corpses under reinforced concrete....
He and others howled with impotent rage as four-by-four trucks with diplomats and aid workers rode past without stopping, neither to help free Maryse nor to gather up the rotting body of her friend Line Louis-Pierre.
10:57 PM ET: Overflowing morgue -- Miami Herald journalists paint a heartbreaking scene at Port-au-Prince's morgue:
An exasperated hospital manager said he had yet to receive authority from the central government to remove the corpses inside the facility.
As corpses were placed in the street, a small group of solemn onlookers watched. One woman waited beside a pine box, trying to find her loved one.
The mass of naked, swollen dead bodies included toddlers and adults, and made a gruesome scene as flies hovered over their bodies.
One woman's body had a red ribbon and a handwritten name tag tied to her left big toe.
Lionel Gaedi went to the morgue to find his brother, Josef.
"I don't see him,'' Gaedia said. "It's a catastrophe. God gives, God takes.''
Gaedi looked at the mass of bodies exposed to the blazing sun and gave up, sure that he would never find his brother in the pile.
A video shows the effort to help those injured in the quake and its aftermath.
5:45 PM ET: Diplomat identified as first American victim -- From the AP:
The first American reported killed by the earthquake in Haiti was a foreign service officer crushed when her home collapsed.
Victoria DeLong, 57, of California, died Tuesday, said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. DeLong, a 27-year diplomat, was a cultural affairs officer and had been stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince since last year. No hometown was immediately available.
Crowley said three other Americans were known to be missing and that the embassy had made contact with nearly 1,000 U.S. citizens in Haiti, a small fraction of the estimated 45,000 there.
A seminary student from Wisconsin named Ben Larson is also believed to have died in the earthquake, his hometown paper reports:
Larson, 25, was in his final year at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Iowa. He had gone to Haiti with his wife, Renee, and cousin, Jonathan Larson, also seminarians, to help the new Haiti Lutheran Church.
All three were staying at the St. Joseph's Home for Boys on a mountain near Port-au-Prince when Tuesday's earthquake struck and the building collapsed, according to an e-mail April Larson sent Thursday to members of her parish.
Renee and Jonathan escaped. Ben did not.
5:20 PM ET: 'It's literally hell on earth' -- The director of a Christian aid group based in the U.S., HealingHaiti, described the situation in Haiti as "unbelievable," and "literally hell on earth." As the AP reports, many aid groups in the country have found themselves overwhelmed by what's going on there:
"This earthquake is really too much," the Rev. Duken Augustin, a Roman Catholic priest, wrote in an e-mail from his home in Cap Haitien, where he works for the U.S.-based Food For The Poor charity. "No (break). No chance. We will have to deal with new needs, new sufferings, new situation of hunger, new despair, new devastation."
Aid organizations are still rushing to get supplies into the country in time to ensure the situation there doesn't go, as a spokesman for the American Red Cross put it to CNN, from "dire to absolutely catastrophic."
"You have a very limited time to accomplish that before people die and before you start to get into issues of diseases," the spokesman, Jonathan Aiken, said.
5:00 PM ET: 'People were dying below me' -- In this video, Anderson Cooper witnesses the miraculous rescue of a young girl buried in the rubble for more than 18 hours. The young girl who was rescued tells Anderson, "people were dying below me, I could hear them, but I wasn't scared."
4:05 PM ET: Health risks grow -- The Wall Street Journal has a thorough report on the health threats Haitians face following the earthquake. According to the Journal, infectious diarrhea, respiratory infections, and measles all pose a real threat, especially in a country where a large amount of the population have not been vaccinated. To make matters worse:
Even cuts and lacerations that become infected pose a serious risk. "These kinds of infections are a major cause of death" in the aftermath of a disaster, said Paul Garwood, a World Health Organization spokesman.
4:00 PM ET: White House calls Limbaugh's comments "really stupid" -- Robert Gibbs ripped Limbaugh at a press conference this afternoon for urging people not to donate to relief efforts in Haiti. From AP:
Spokesman Robert Gibbs says there are always people who say "really stupid things" during a crisis. He says it's sad that Limbaugh would use the power of his pulpit to convince people not to assist those in need.
3:45 PM ET: Rescue attempt caught on video -- CNN's Ivan Watson reports from Haiti as a rescue team tries to free a 11-year-old girl buried under the rubble. What Watson describes is nothing short of devastating: "The right leg is underneath the concrete - her hands are free and her leg is free and she's talking to us. They only discovered her today. They're thinking about trying to cut her leg....they don't know what to do right now."
Warning: this clip is particularly upsetting, as you can hear the girl crying.
3:30 PM ET: 'Blood into gutter like water' -- An American director of an orphanage in Haiti describes the area around her buildings after the earthquake. She says it looks as if a bomb had gone off.
3:25 PM ET: Brian Williams says Haiti a "colossal calamity." -- HuffPost Media Editor Danny Shea interviews the NBC anchor in Port-au-Prince.
3:20 PM ET: Twitter airline free flights hoax -- Rumors like this were no doubt inevitable, if still unfortunate. From CNN:
Twitter was buzzing Thursday morning with news that several airlines are flying doctors and nurses to Haiti free of charge to help with relief efforts there in the wake of Tuesday's devastating earthquake.
The only problem: The rumors are false, an American Airlines spokesman says.
And another similar hoax:
Twitter users also circulated a rumor that UPS would ship for free any package under 50 lbs. to Haiti. In a blog post Wednesday on UPS's Web site, a spokeswoman debunked the rumor and said that destruction of Haiti's roads and communications networks "means our own shipping services to Haiti are on hold."
3:00 PM ET: Those who are missing -- AP has compiled figures for countries reporting people dead and missing in Haiti:
-Canada: Three dead and five missing.
-Costa Rica: Five missing.
-France: Two confirmed deaths and several missing.
-Denmark: Two reported missing.
-Italy: About 100 reported missing.
-Mexico: 40 of the 80 Mexicans living in Haiti located.
-Netherlands: Three injured, including a child; 22 missing.
-Norway: One missing.
-Poland: Four missing.
-United Nations: 36 U.N. personnel confirmed dead and nearly 200 missing.
-United States: One dead and three missing. The embassy contacted nearly 1,000 Americans, but an estimated 45,000 are in the country.
The U.S. figure for missing people, based on various reports from across the country, would seem to be low.
ABC New York reports on two missing NYU students:
Two New York University students who arrived in Haiti just before the earthquake have not been heard from since.
Nathalie Pierre and Greg Childs arrived in Haiti on Monday.
They are both history students, doing research in Haiti as part of their PhD program.
If there are other cases of missing persons that you would like us to draw attention to please let us know.
2:15 PM ET: As wallets open for Haiti, Credit card companies take a big cut -- HuffPost's Laura Bassett reports on the hidden fees that are skimming money from donations to relief organizations and enriching banks and credit card companies in the process:
As a massive human tragedy unfolds in Haiti, relief organizations are soliciting credit-card donations through their hotlines and websites. About 97 percent of these donations will actually make it to the designated organizations -- but the other 3 percent will be skimmed off by banks and credit card companies to cover their "transaction costs."
Thanks to this hidden fee, American banks and credit card companies are making huge profits -- somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 million a year -- off of people's charitable donations, according to a Huffington Post analysis.
Those profits rise sharply after major disasters, when humanitarian relief organizations such as Oxfam and Operation USA take in more than 85 percent of their donations via credit card -- and the credit card providers, with only a few exceptions, refuse to waive their fees.
1:30 PM ET: White House adviser criticizes Robertson for "cursed" remark -- Valerie Jarrett calls it "a pretty stunning comment to make," and right she is. HuffPost Media Editor Danny Shea has a round-up of the reaction.
Also, in case you missed it, Rush Limbaugh has also chimed in with some less than charitable words.
1:10 PM ET: Missing Americans found -- Some good news out of Florida -- Lynn University officials announced this morning that they have now accounted for 11 students who were on a humanitarian mission in Haiti and were previously reported missing. The school is still searching for one student and two faculty members.
12:45 PM ET: U.S aid starts arriving -- From the AP:
Air Force special tactics officers from the Panhandle's Hurlburt Field Air Force Special Operations Command say their teams are in control of operations at Haiti's main airport.
Lt. Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for the command, says airmen have cleared runways, established, 24-hour air traffic control and have weather systems and airport lighting up and running.
He says dozens of cargo planes are taking off and landing.
AP also has video of U.S. military cargo arriving in Port-au-Prince.
12:30 PM ET: Death toll figures -- The Haitian Red cross estimates between 45,000 to 50,000 have died as a result of the earthquake, with 3 million left hurt or homeless. The figure is, thankfully, much lower than some of the estimate yesterday, which many reports suggested could top 100,000.
12:25 PM ET: "One of the largest relief efforts in our recent history" -- President Obama said today that the U.S. is initially directing $100 million toward relief efforts in Haiti. "This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership," Obama said.
More details from the AP:
As many as 5,500 U.S. infantry soldiers and Marines will be on the ground or on ships offshore by Monday, a Defense Department official said. More than a half dozen ships, including a hospital ship with 12 operating rooms, also were heading there Thursday or preparing to get under way, said spokesman Bryan Whitman.
Obama said the U.S. government is initially directing $100 million toward the relief effort, a figure he said would certainly grow over the year.[...]
Amid continuing efforts to assess the disaster's cost in lives and lost property, the first U.S. Army infantry troops from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina prepared to leave for Haiti with arrival expected later Thursday. That's a little over 100 troops that will find locations to set up tents and other essentials in preparation for the arrival of another roughly 800 personnel from the division on Friday and the full brigade of some 3,500 by the end of the weekend, Whitman said.
They come on top of some 2,200 Marines, also to arrive by the Sunday or Monday, as the military ramped up what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called "a full court press" to provide security, search and rescue and delivery of humanitarian supplies.
Obama said more than a half dozen U.S. military ships were also expected to help, with the largest, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, arriving Friday, and the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort expected to arrive by Friday, Jan. 22.
Here's video of Obama's speech:
12:20 PM ET: First American death reported -- It was announced today by a State Department spokesman, who noted that at least 164 American have been evacuated since Tuesday.
12:05 AM ET: UN death toll -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that 22 members of the organization are now confirmed to have been killed in the earthquake. However, he added that there was still no news on whether or not Hedi Annabi, the head of the UN"s peacekeeping mission in Haiti, was among the dead, as was reported yesterday. Haitian President Rene Preval was among those yesterday who said Annabi had died.
11:55 AM ET: Top officials push for Haiti commitment well beyond disaster relief -- HuffPost's Sam Stein reports on the push to do more:
In the wake of Haiti's catastrophic earthquake, highly respected foreign policy voices -- including American officials who have specialized in Haitian relations -- are calling for a fully revamped approach and commitment from the U.S. to the neighboring island nation.
Former National Security Adviser Tony Lake -- who helped spearhead the Clinton administration's relations with Haiti in the early '90s -- made the case that any recovery effort had to be broad in scope and long-term in focus.
"When you are doing disaster relief, you need to do it with at least one eye on how you can not only make up for the destruction but help create a better future, because everything you do is starting to set new patterns whether it is in building or in schools or in health care, that can continue into the future," Lake told the Huffington Post.
11:48 AM ET: The aftermath -- CNN has some of the most intense footage yet of the damage and chaos caused by the earthquake.
Meanwhile, this AP video takes a tour through Port-au-Prince to survey the damage and interview a Haitian family whose house collapsed.
11:45 AM ET: Clinton speaks on Haiti -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who cut short a trip to Asia to deal with the ongoing humanitarian crisis, tells MSNBC "we're going to be there for the long term."
11:40 AM ET: 'The saddest place on Earth' -- NBC's Brian Williams reporting from Haiti:
11:30 AM ET: Why Haiti keeps getting hammered -- AP explains why Haiti repeatedly suffers misfortune:
When it comes to natural disasters, Haiti seems to have a bull's-eye on it. That's because of a killer combination of geography, poverty, social problems, slipshod building standards and bad luck, experts say.
The list of catastrophes is mind-numbing: This week's devastating earthquake. Four tropical storms or hurricanes that killed about 800 people in 2008. Killer storms in 2005 and 2004. Floods in 2007, 2006, 2003 (twice) and 2002. And that's just the 21st Century run-down.
"If you want to put the worst case scenario together in the Western hemisphere (for disasters), it's Haiti," said Richard Olson, a professor at Florida International University who directs the Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas project.
"There's a whole bunch of things working against Haiti. One is the hurricane track. The second is tectonics. Then you have the environmental degradation and the poverty," he said.
10:00 AM ET: Earthquake damage as seen from space -- GeoEye has collaborated with Google Earth to release some satellite imagery of Haiti, HuffPost's Bianca Bosker reports. These recent images, she writes, "detail the catastrophic damage suffered by homes, buildings, and Haiti's Presidential palace; capture people attempting to set up temporary shelter in a soccer stadium away from structures that potentially collapse; and show survivors streaming through the streets of Port-au-Prince." An example of the images is below. You can see the rest here.
9:50 AM ET: Desperation among survivors -- This AP video report from this morning gives a sense of the dire circumstances in which survivors find themselves while they wait around for relief.
9:45 AM ET: First rescue, then rebuild -- The New York Times' editoral board weighs in on what needs to be done this time around:
Whenever disaster strikes, we are reminded that Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere. And each time there is a disaster, this country and others help -- for a while. This time must be different.
Haiti urgently needs relief to dig out and shelter survivors, and to nurse, feed and clothe people who had little to start with and now have nothing left. But Haiti needs more. It needs a commitment to finally move beyond the relentless poverty, despair and dysfunction that would be a disaster anywhere else but in Haiti are the norm.
9:35 AM ET: Obama calling on Bill and George -- The president has asked former President George W. Bush to join fellow former President Bill Clinton in helping to lead the US's relief efforts in Haiti, AFP reports, citing an official close to Bush.
Meanwhile, Clinton has written an essay for TIME on what it will take to rebuild Haiti. It's well worth reading. Here's an excerpt:
Why is Haiti so special to me? Haiti is completely unique in our hemisphere because of its history and culture. There are other French Caribbean islands, but none of them have Haiti's particular Creole influence. None of them feature Haiti's distinctive mix of West African religious and cultural influences, the most visible of which is the persistence of the voodoo faith, which is practiced alongside Christianity. Unfortunately, ever since the first slave revolt by Haitians in 1791, the country has been beset by abuses caused from within and without. It has never been able to fulfill its potential as a nation.
But I think it can.
TIME also has posted an audio interview with the former president about Haiti.
9:30 AM ET: Missing UN staff -- As many as 200 UN staff in Haiti remain unnaccounted for as of this morning, Reuters reports. The UN's headquarteres in Haiti collapses during the earthquake.
9:15 AM ET: Thursday morning in Port-au-Prince -- NBC has some new aerial footage from above the battered capital:
9:10 AM ET: 'This is devastating on every level' -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised Thursday that the U.S. would to everything it could to help Haiti get past its 'cycle of hope and despair."
9:00 AM ET: Other natural disasters in Haiti -- Here's a timeline of such events going back to the