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US Announces $100 Million Aid Package for Haiti

Meredith Buel | Washington 14 January 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced $100 million in new aid to Haiti, two days after a powerful earthquake left much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince in rubble. Our correspondent has details on the American relief and rescue effort.

Speaking at the White House, President Obama says the emergency relief effort is one of the largest in recent history and represents a moment that calls out for American leadership.

Mr. Obama told key members of his national security team that Haiti must be a top priority for the U.S. government.

The president says the $100 million in additional aid will mean more life-saving equipment, food, water and medicine will be sent to the devastated nation.

While Mr. Obama sought to reassure the Haitian people that a huge humanitarian effort is on the way, he conceded it will take time to get all of the assets in place.

"Even as we move as quickly as possible, it will take hours - and in many cases days - to get all of our people and resources on the ground," said President Obama. "Right now in Haiti roads are impassable, the main port is badly damaged, communications are just beginning to come online, and aftershocks continue."

The United States is sending 3,500 soldiers and hundreds of medical personnel to help with the disaster relief and security.

The Pentagon is also sending an aircraft carrier and amphibious ships, including one that can carry 2,000 Marines.

The Navy is also sending the floating hospital ship Comfort, which is manned by hundreds of doctors, nurses and medical technicians.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking on NBC's Today show, says the Obama administration is committed to providing assistance to Haiti now and in the future.

"This is going to be a long-term effort," said Hillary Clinton. "We have the immediate crisis of trying to save those lives that can be saved, to deal with the injured and the dead, to try to provide food, water, medical supplies, some semblance of shelter, and then to work with our Haitian partners, the Government of Haiti, NGOs, others to begin the rebuilding process."

The U.S. emergency response is being coordinated by the administrator for the Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah.

He says opening the airport in Port-au-Prince will rapidly accelerate the delivery of aid.

""We have more than 250 American relief workers actively engaged that have been just a part of the recent deployment," said Rajiv Shah. "That number is increasing significantly as we speak as planes land at the airport that has now been operationalized as a 24/7 airlift operation."

Shah says there are more than eight search and rescue teams actively working to find people buried in the rubble.

He says officials are now activating a network of medical providers to offer trauma care and services to the Haitian population.

Shah says critically needed commodities such as food, water and tarps for shelter will soon arrive in Port-au-Prince.

Officials estimate as many as three million people, about a third of Haiti's population, may have been affected by the quake.

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