Daily Press Briefing
Philip J. Crowley
Daily Press Briefing
January 14, 2010
Death of State Department Employee in Haiti Earthquake
18 Search and Rescue Teams on Ground / 2nd Rescue
30 Countries are Currently Assisting Haiti
Working with Haitian Government on the Airport and Flight Issues / U.S. Taken over Control of Air Traffic Control / Haitian Authorities Still in Charge of Air Space
Logistics Remain a Challenge
300 to 400 Evacuees / Flights to Dominican Republic
Death Toll to be in Tens of Thousands
Roads beginning to be Cleared
Consultations with Haitian Government / Communications with Haitian Embassy in Washington
Security is a Concern / Minor Looting / Augmenting UN Force with 82nd Airborne
Looking at Ways to Deliver Assistance into Haiti
Seven Individuals and Spanish Ambassador Evacuated to Guantanamo Bay
Raised Issue of Google Censorship with Officials / Asked for an Explanation / Meeting with DCM
Economic Relationship / National Norms
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. To begin, we are saddened to report that Ms. Victoria DeLong, a cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince, died in the collapse of her home following the earthquake in Haiti. Her next of kin have been notified. Ms. DeLong served in Haiti since February 2009 and at the State Department since November 1983. It’s a tragedy for the State Department and for our family in the public diplomacy and public affairs world. Some of you who are old-timers here – she was previously – did serve in our Bureau of Public Affairs during her career.
Continuing on, we have eight teams – search-and-rescue teams on the ground, not only U.S. teams but also from Iceland, Spain, and Chile. This afternoon, we have been able to rescue a second person from the rubble. There was a second rescue. The first occurred yesterday at the UN compound. Today, we were able to free one person from the Hotel Montana. But these teams, with about 260 personnel, continue their lifesaving work as we speak.
And before taking your questions, obviously, this is still a very growing list, but our estimate is that at least 31 countries have meaningful assistance that has already reached Haiti or is en route. So not only is the United States commitment to Haiti growing, but also the international commitment as well. It presents a challenge, obviously, for us working with the Haitian Government to be able to coordinate this so that it gets on the ground in Port-au-Prince and then gets to the Haitian people as rapidly as possible.
With that, I’ll take your questions. Yeah.
QUESTION: P.J., can you give us an update about the state of the airport? Because I understand that earlier the airspace has been closed because there were too many planes on the tarmac.
MR. CROWLEY: As General Fraser said yesterday, obviously, logistics is a crucial issue and we are working with the Haitian Government and with the FAA, others, to make sure that we can sequence this properly. The airport at Port-au-Prince – the good news is it’s now operating a 24-hour/7-day-a-week capability, but the bad news is it is a very limited airport with one runway and limited ramp space. So we are trying to work to create a system where we get the planes stacked down on the ground, offload cargo, onload evacuees that might be going on it. And there have been occasions today where we’ve had to hold airplanes because the ramp was crowded. But this is an indication as well that, obviously, the level of assistance is expanding. We continue to look at the port and to see how we can effectively deliver not only the personnel that are doing the work of assessing the challenge, beginning the work on urban search-and-rescue. We’ve got medical personnel in the pipeline. Some will be arriving this evening from Atlanta. So yeah, this – logistics remains a challenge because of the limited infrastructure that’s available to us due to the earthquake.
QUESTION: P.J., when you say holding planes, do you mean you had to hold them circling overhead?
MR. CROWLEY: During the course of the day, there have been airplanes on the ramp, there have been airplanes circling overhead, and there have been airplanes that have been held back either in surrounding countries or in the United States just to make sure that they could be sequenced properly. As I understand it, these were occasionally temporary holds for about an hour or two hours or so. But the logistics is a – we’re not going to try to paper over this. Logistics is limited. Right now, the airport – we’ve got it open. We’re expanding our ability to operate there. But at various times, because of the significant flow of airplanes and people and material, there have been temporary holds.
QUESTION: P.J., who exactly is in charge of running the airport right now?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we have taken over air traffic controller responsibility. We’ve got a lot of personnel who are assisting in the process of onloading and offloading. This was something that we worked out with the Haitian Government, for the express reason that those Haitians – Haitian nationals who are working at the airport, in some cases they’re there, in other cases, they’re understandably at home looking after their families. So we’ve been able to bring significant communications and logistical people, security people, into the airport. That certainly has helped expand the ability to use the airport. So the Haitian authorities are still in charge of their airspace, but we are doing the air traffic control in and out of the airport.
QUESTION: And the air traffic controllers, are they U.S. military or civilian?
MR. CROWLEY: There was a team that came in last night. I think also the cutters --
MR. CROWLEY: -- the Coast Guard cutters – this is probably better answered at the Pentagon, but I think this is a – primarily there are military personnel, Coast Guard personnel that are helping with air traffic control. But obviously, in terms of the control of the overall airspace, that remains under the Haitian Government.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on the evacuations? Did the 300 people who were – or 370 who --
MR. CROWLEY: I think somewhere between 300 and 400 will be the flow out today.
QUESTION: But have they left, do you know?
MR. CROWLEY: We have had one or two flights today. There was the possibility of a third. So we think somewhere between 300 and 400 will move out of Haiti today.
QUESTION: And where are they going?
MR. CROWLEY: For the most part, they go to the Dominican Republic, to Santo Domingo.
QUESTION: Any casualty updates, other than what you just mentioned?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s the only – the first announcement we have about --
QUESTION: Right. You did mention on the record the three possible ones. Are they still considered possible or --
MR. CROWLEY: We do not have any further confirmed U.S. citizens fatalities.
QUESTION: Do you have anything further on the death toll, other than what the Haitian Red Cross has said – 50,000 at this point?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Certainly, as the Secretary said this morning, we know that the death toll is going to be in the tens of thousands. I think this is going to be a process that goes on for some time. And you have the 82nd Airborne that will be – elements will be arriving today. They’ll be able to augment the MINUSTAH UN force. And as – they’re already out around the city, but as you kind of extend that presence beyond the city, they’re beginning to clear roads so that more and more of this activity can happen throughout the city. So obviously, we’re going to in the coming days be able to start to clear rubble. When you clear rubble, we’re going to find people who have fallen because of debris and other things, collapsed buildings. So this number will clearly go up and we have no reason to question that estimate.
QUESTION: I just want to ask you about President Preval, if you knew where he is and what he’s actually doing. Because it doesn’t – we don’t get the sense that he’s actually in charge of anything right now.
MR. CROWLEY: We have had and continue to have consultations. I can’t say we’ve had direct contact with President Preval today. We’ve had multiple contacts with him over the past 48 hours with this tragedy. We remain very significantly engaged with the Haitian Government. We’ve had a clear line to the Haitian Embassy here in Washington. We are bringing in some capabilities. Communications capabilities came in yesterday. We are making that available to the Haitian Government so that we can rebuild the capacity of the government to be able to function and to, most importantly, be able to communicate to the Haitian people.
I mean, one has to step back and say that Haiti has obviously taken a devastating blow, and this is – it has damaged the fundamental capabilities of Haitian society as well as the capabilities of the Haitian Government. Clearly, the Haitian Government was challenged before the earthquake two days ago. But we have been working with Haiti. It’s one of the reasons why we have a lot of Americans there working in a variety of capacities to help build the capacity of the Haitian Government. That process was ongoing at the time of this tragedy. So we are committed to helping the Haitian Government restore its capacity to function effectively.
In our conversations with the Haitian Government, we have made – they have made clear to us what their priorities are, and we believe that the support that we are providing is directly in line with what they’ve asked us to do.
QUESTION: So the answer to my question – I understand that he’s been a victim of this as well with his home being demolished. Is he actually making any decisions?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I --
QUESTION: I mean, is he doing anything?
MR. CROWLEY: I will defer to the Haitian Government to describe what they are doing. We have had contact with the president. We’ve had contact with the prime minister and other ministers. It’s hard for me to describe that interaction. I think it’s ongoing as we speak. But clearly, the Haitian Government has taken a significant blow here, and we are helping them to rebuild their capacity.
QUESTION: Have you had contact with President Preval other than the two conversations with the U.S. ambassador that you described that took place in the first 12 hours?
MR. CROWLEY: I am not aware of an additional contact.
QUESTION: So that --
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not excluding it.
QUESTION: So (inaudible) those two?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I --
MR. CROWLEY: Those happened at the ambassadorial level. My sense is there have been additional contacts within the United States Government with President Preval, but I haven’t got that at my disposal.
QUESTION: Has he spoken to Secretary Clinton or anything like that?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Has he spoken to any senior officials from Washington?
MR. CROWLEY: I think the answer is yes. I’ll take the question and see what other contacts we’ve had.
QUESTION: How concerned are you about security over time? It’s hot. These people have been through a devastating blow, as you mentioned. They may be lacking for water, for food. And are you worried --
MR. CROWLEY: All of the above.
QUESTION: -- about tempers flaring and how to secure neighborhoods?
MR. CROWLEY: Is that a concern in these kinds of situations? Absolutely. The Haitian society has taken a devastating blow and there – we expect that there’s going to be pressure that builds over time, because we do expect, whether it’s in different parts of the city, that there will be shortages that emerge in terms of food, water, and other things. There has been some minor looting, but so far we’re – it’s a fairly – all things considered, we haven’t seen the kind of civil unrest that you have seen in previous situations like this.
That’s why – one of the reasons why it’s important to not only help the UN and the MINUSTAH force get back out on the streets to provide the basic law and order that they were already providing to Haiti before the earthquake. Haiti has a police force. It’s a limited force. And it does not really have an army. So we are augmenting that capability with the 82nd Airborne, and we hope that that presence will be able to maintain the kind of law and order that allows us to do the important work of, first of all, saving lives and then getting more support to the Haitian people.
QUESTION: So the 82nd Airborne – this brigade from the 82nd Airborne is going to become Haiti’s de facto army?
MR. CROWLEY: No. They’re there to augment the UN force --
QUESTION: Well --
MR. CROWLEY: -- and to provide the kind of stability and law and order that allows our humanitarian and disaster support to continue.
QUESTION: What’s the plan for the ports? I mean, my understanding is that they’re all pretty much destroyed. And in order to get a large-scale recovery effort in there, you’re going to need to restore these at some point to be able to offload --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: What’s the --
MR. CROWLEY: It’s probably a better question to ask the Pentagon. But it is a significant factor. It is a limiting factor right now in terms of how much support we can offload.
Now, as Raj Shah said in his briefing yesterday, we are about creating different kinds of options. So clearly, you’re going to have to deliver assistance through a variety of means. The airport is fundamental to that. Being able to restore roads so we can deliver assistance by ground will be important to that. If we can dock large ships at the port – and right now it doesn't appear that we can – then we have to look for other ways of doing that. Some of that can be through rotary aircraft. Some of that can be by having ships hover just offshore and ferrying them through smaller vessels. So we’re looking at all of those options. But clearly, if we can – to some extent, if we can find ways to at least use the port for smaller vessels, that will give us a major boost in terms of being able to deliver assistance.
QUESTION: Speaking of ships, I know you did this at some point during the Katrina crisis, but have you talked to any cruise ship companies about possibly that they could come near the port and provide kind of makeshift housing or any type of services or anything like that or delivery of --
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say if those conversations have taken place yet. That would be an option. I’m sure that in the greater scheme of things, we’re looking at those kinds of options.
QUESTION: Back on Victoria DeLong for a second, do you have an age and a hometown for her?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not. I’ll see – we’ll see what other information we can get for you.
QUESTION: Will you give us the spelling?
MR. CROWLEY: D, small e, capital L,o-n-g.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. D?
MR. CROWLEY: D, small e, capital L, o-n-g. Victoria DeLong.
QUESTION: Back to the fatalities, you said probably tens of thousands. The release that you all put out not long ago, about a half hour ago, said at least 100,000 from the Government of Haiti.
MR. CROWLEY: A release that we did?
QUESTION: It was a release that USAID put out, but it --
QUESTION: -- cites the Haitian Government.
QUESTION: USAID, from the State Department.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, that was a Haitian figure put out a couple of days ago. Look, the short answer is we don’t know yet. The magnitude of this situation cannot be underestimated. But can you put an order of magnitude on it? We just don’t know. That number is going to be – going to grow and the number is going to be considerable.
QUESTION: New subject if we’re done with Haiti?
QUESTION: One more question.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: For the injured, have you taken any more injured to Guantanamo Bay?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge. But that remains a valuable outlet. I think as far as I know, we’ve taken seven out so far, plus the Spanish ambassador. But we do have a major medical facility at Guantanamo. We have a runway and large ramp space. So as we go through this, Guantanamo will play a significant role.
QUESTION: You also have a prison there. I’m wondering – this may be way too far ahead of the game, but you know, one of the jails in Haiti collapsed. Has anyone given any thought to – and apparently, prisoners escaped. Has anyone given any thought to using Guantanamo either for prisoners from Haiti or --
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: -- or for refugees, people who might be – who would be homeless and could temporarily sheltered?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure we’re looking at a variety of options, but not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: What about taking – I mean, taking in some Haitians that are left homeless? Is there any kind of thought or discussions about a possible refugee issue, anything like that?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we’re getting ahead of the game here. That – and those issues reside at the Department of Homeland Security. But right now, we’re focused on saving as many lives as possible, stabilize the situation. After that, we’ll see what Haiti needs and then consider those options in time.
QUESTION: Can I go to Cuba? Are we done with Haiti? There’s a report out reporting the name of this contractor who was detained down there, Alan Gross. I was wondering if you could confirm that.
MR. CROWLEY: We do not have a privacy waiver on that individual, so I am not in a position to comment.
QUESTION: I know you weighed in on Google China yesterday. Have you learned anything more about this Google decision or about China’s response?
MR. CROWLEY: We have had a discussion today here in Washington with officials from the Embassy, where we raised the issue. And as the Secretary said, it is a serious issue. The incident raises questions about both internet freedom and the security of the internet in China. And we’ve asked them for an explanation.
QUESTION: Were they called to the State Department for this meeting or was over the phone?
MR. CROWLEY: I think – it was – I think it was – no, they met, I think, outside the State Department.
QUESTION: And who did they meet with?
QUESTION: Who were these officials --
QUESTION: Who was the State Department --
QUESTION: Was it the ambassador or --
MR. CROWLEY: David Shear was our – and I think it was the --
QUESTION: Is he a DAS?
MR. CROWLEY: -- with the DCM.
QUESTION: He’s a DAS and he met with the DCM?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. The DCM.
QUESTION: Where was it?
MR. CROWLEY: Here in Washington.
QUESTION: Who is David Shear?
MR. CROWLEY: David Shear is – I – David is a DAS in the State Department in our East Asia Pacific region. He focuses on China.
QUESTION: Did this come up in the --
QUESTION: Who did he meet with?
MR. CROWLEY: The DCM.
QUESTION: Did this come up at the Secretary’s dinner last Thursday with the technology leaders?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Can you put this in a broader context in China relations? You did talk about that as – yesterday’s a freedom of information related issue. But this is also a business issue, and if business is one of the brighter spots of U.S.-China relations which can be patching up and down, if business goes sour, U.S.-China business relations go sour, what else is there as a glue to hold them together, hold the ties together?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, you are talking about interaction between the two largest economies in the world. So we are going to do business together. That’s not the issue. The issue is what are the issues within that – our economic relationship that need to be managed. And this is – it’s a serious issue on a number of levels. As we have talked about, there are business standards and expectations, international norms that you expect your business partners to live up to. And we have had multiple conversations with China about activity both in this area and more broadly.
So I mean, we have a mature relationship with China. We have an extensive economic relationship with China. We have had various issues and disagreements that have cropped up over time with China. We have raised this issue today in saying that we have serious concerns about this and its ramifications. And we’re going to continue our dialogue with China on these and other kinds of issues.
QUESTION: You said that the meeting took place outside of the State Department. Did it occur in the Chinese Embassy or was it at a third location?
MR. CROWLEY: Third location.
QUESTION: And just to – go ahead.
QUESTION: Just following up. Why? Why not the State Department or the Chinese Embassy? What other location --
QUESTION: -- would be --
MR. CROWLEY: It might have been at lunch.
QUESTION: Was it at lunch?
MR. CROWLEY: It could have been.
QUESTION: Was it specifically, though, to talk about this particular issue?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a fair question. I mean, we have interaction with our counterparts from China all the time, and at the meeting that we had, this was a major issue for --
QUESTION: Well, but did the U.S. ask for this meeting with the Chinese specifically to discuss this, or were they meeting about a bunch of stuff and this just happened to take up a lot of the time? Or like, what was the context for them meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.
QUESTION: Change of subject. There’s a new wave of tension between Turkey and Israel recently and you know both sides threatened to recall back their ambassadors from Tel Aviv and Ankara and accusations that there are some anti-Semitic feelings on Turkish TV. I just – I’m interested if State Department follows the process and if there is any, like, reaction.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, these are two important allies and friends of the United States. Turkey has played an important role as an intermediary in working through issues related to Middle East peace. We value that interaction and value Turkey’s role in trying to help countries work through these issues. And I would expect that to continue.
QUESTION: Speaking of norms that you expect your business partners to uphold, have you yet heard of any interest on the part of the UAE Government in reviewing the acquittal of Sheikh Issa?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 4:42 p.m.)
DPB # 7
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