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The government's response to Haiti earthquake

By Ed O'Keefe


A US coast guard airplane flies following a major quake on Wednesday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Photo by Frederic Dupoux/Getty Images)

Continuous updates on how the federal government has responded to the Haiti earthquake. This will update as events warrant:

Updated 7:53 p.m. ET Thursday

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES:

The federal government will deploy thousands of medical professional in the coming days to assist Haitians recovering from the earthquake. More than 250 government doctors, medical professionals are en route, HHS said Thursday night. More than 12,000 personnel could possibly assist in the coming days.

Department officials activated the National Disaster Medical System, which provides assistance to state, local and federal authorities following major disasters, especially in caring for casualties evacuated back to the U.S.

Teams of doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and surgical physicians with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps will travel to Haiti, along with other medical personnel from Georgia, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida, HHS said. The teams will bring along 22,000 pounds of medical equipment and supplies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also assist by checking the country's water and food supply.

FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION:

The Federal Aviation Administration has canceled a ground stop on civilian flights from the U.S. to Haiti after prohibiting such flights for most of Thursday.

Haitian authorities are slowly accepting inbound flights, but long delays are possible, according to FAA advisories.

Authorities prohibited flights from entering Haitian airspace earlier Thursday as the Port-au-Prince tarmac was clogged with several planes trying to unload relief supplies. Congestion will remain a problem in the coming days, FAA said.

At least 30 aircraft were parked around the Port-au-Prince airport runway for most of Thursday, with some planes on the ramps around the runway and others on grassy areas.

The Port-au-Prince airport also lacks sufficient fuel to refuel departing flights.

Track FAA’s advisories on Haitian airspace here.

FAA dispatched at least two inspectors on Wednesday to help assess the condition of airport runways in Port-au-Prince and Cape Haitien. Both airports are open only to private and humanitarian flights, it said. The inspectors will check runway surfaces and lighting, with an eye toward ensuring the airports can support round-the-clock civil relief operations.

STATE DEPARTMENT / U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT:

More than 250 Americans are on the ground assisting earthquake relief efforts, most notably urban search and rescue teams from California, Florida and Virginia, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said Thursday.

“It really does amount to the first wave of response," Shah said, noting that a "significant" military presence is on its way.

At least one American has died in Haiti with "several Americans unaccounted for," said State Department Counsel Cheryl Mills.

Reporters quizzed Shah and Mills on the U.S. role in Haiti, and whether the U.S. will take more control of Haiti's civilian government or military operations. One reporter even asked if Shah might serve as "the Paul Bremer of Haiti."

“I am confident that this government is not looking for the U.S. to take over," Mills said. "I’m confident they’re looking for a partner. We have no intention of supplanting the leadership of Haiti.”

Earlier Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on six network and cable television morning shows to address the government's response.

"The depth of it and the extent of it is just magnificent," Clinton told CBS's "The Early Show."

Clinton told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she's visited Haiti several times in the last 35 years.

"We were making a lot of progress. Businesses were returning to Haiti. We had a great plan from the Haitian government, who is our partners. This is devastating at every level. We're going to work with President Preval and the government of Haiti. We're going to work with the United Nations, which has suffered a terrible loss."

In a statement Wednesday night, Obama lauded Ambassador Kenneth Merten's efforts on the ground. Though Merten has spoken with Haitian President René Préval and members of his government several times, Obama has not yet spoken directly with Preval, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince has 172 personnel. About 80 nonessential U.S. embassy staff and family members were ordered to leave Haiti on Wednesday.

Injured Americans will be evacuated first by Coast Guard helicopter and others may leave by way of the airport.

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:

The Coast Guard has been the department's most active thus far.

Coast Guard helicopters performed reconnaissance flights over Haiti Wednesday morning that helped determine the earthquake's damage was concentrated in and around Port-au-Prince.

Some helicopters dispatched to the country may come from the Coast Guard base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba while other cutters and aircraft are on the ground providing assistance, according to Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of U.S. Southern Command.

Temporary protective status for Haitians in the U.S. "is in the range of considerations we consider in a disaster, but our focus remains on saving lives," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Matthew Chandler.

The agency halted all deportations to Haiti for the time being on Wednesday. The agency continues to closely monitor the situation, said spokesman Matthew Chandler.

Dozens of immigrant advocacy groups and several members of Congress are renewing a long-standing call for the Obama administration to grant temporary legal status and work permits to as many as 125,000 Haitians in the United States illegally, reports The Post's N.C. Aizenman.

Meanwhile, Federal Emergency Management Agency workers are also preparing to deploy to Haiti on Friday, sources said.

FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION:

The agency received allegations of fraud less than 24 hours after the earthquake, special agent Jason Pack said. Investigators are still pursuing the allegations.

"Some of the sites people report as scams, are not," Pack said. "Some are. Some of the tips are because some people who want to help are not familiar with newer ways to give," including text messaging donation efforts, he said.

"Bottom line, best to research before you give. When in doubt, check it out," Pack said.

More specifically, the FBI recommends that people should not respond to unsolicited e-mail messages with links; should be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for online donations; and should verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various web-based resources.

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION:

Hundreds of public television and radio stations have expressed interest in hosting on-air fundraising drives to help fund earthquake relief efforts, an FCC official said Thursday.

The agency granted a temporary waiver to public and religious stations on Wednesday after several inquiries.

"These temporary waivers will help tap the American spirit of generosity in this time of great need to aid Haitian relief efforts," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

The agency usually prohibits public broadcasters from hosting on-air fundraising drives for any organization other than the station itself. The agency issued similar waivers following Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the Jan. 2005 Southeast Asian tsunami.

The agency also stands ready to provide assistance to the government's relief efforts and has reached out to Haitian officials and Haitian communication providers to offer assistance.

THE MILITARY:

A U.S. military cargo plane filled with aid supplies was unloaded at the airport in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, where millions of people have been affected by a massive earthquake. Watch the video above.

Obama said Thursday morning that the U.S. military had secured the city's airport and had begun a 24-hour a day airlift of water and medicine. He said the Coast Guard has begun evacuations of American citizens that will continue in the days ahead.

The 82nd Airborne Division has arrived, Obama said, and the Navy's hospital ship, Comfort, is on its way.

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 14, 2010; 7:53 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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Comments

Hooray for Hillary!!! Hillary Clinton appeared today on Fox News and indicated that she and her department have instituted a better way of tracking funding that Haiti receives from the U.S. When asked about the money being funneled into Haiti from the U.S. and concern that corruption might siphon away the bulk of the aid meant for the plight of the Haitians, Ms. Clinton was very pleased to point out that she was way ahead of the game on that one. Good for you, Hillary! Ms. Clinton appears to have a personal draw to Haiti and the plight of her people. She and President Clinton spent their honeymoon in Haiti.

Posted by: prossers7 | January 14, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I think it's sad that a rescue team from the People's Republic of China arrived in Haiti hours before the first team from the U.S.

Posted by: googleguy | January 14, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Where are the weapons, ammo and explosives located in Haiti and who is watching them?

We were watching the news last night about the tragedy that’s hit Haiti. At one point, we became agitated and asked why it was taking the US so long to respond. After all, Haiti was just a few miles away. Then, this morning when I awoke, as usual, I turned on the news. On CNN a General, who has been put in charge of the military response, was asked about how and when he would be responding. He stated that he first needed an assessment. That response caused my coffee to boil over. Some forty-eight hours had elapsed since the quake, folks!!

Those, who refuse to learn from the lessons taught by history, will surely repeat mistakes earlier made. Our leaders learned nothing from bombing incidents pre 9/1l, for example, our marines in Lebanon and we have already forgotten the lessons, which we should have learned from 9/11. Japan, China, Iran, Indonesia have all experienced Haiti-like calamities in recent years. And we have had our share of deadly earth quakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. Yet, we seem to have learned nothing from these disasters including Katrina.

What common needs arise from all such disasters? Water, food and medical supplies are foremost. Portable generators, fuel, blankets and tents would be next. Additionally, there is a crucial need for a detached group of profession people, who can mobilize, organize and direct the flow of people and resources in the affected areas towards common recovery goals. One doesn’t need an assessment in order to put these things in motion. Furthermore, security must be included at the top of the priority list, especially, in today’s world when terrorists will seek any opportunity to pilfer weapons, ammo and explosives. Where are these things located in Haiti and who is looking after them?

Given all the history as cited above and the closeness of Haiti, it is inexcusable that it takes so long to have boots on the ground there. The above cited materials should be packed, palletized, stored in a warehouse and ready to load on a plane on a moment’s notice. Why isn’t this the case? All Americans should be asking this question. Your own life could be weighing in the balance next.


Posted by: vmonroe_valnesio | January 14, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

It is probably too late, but please, somebody keep the US government agencies out of Haiti. How many will die because the paper work isn't correct? How many times will they say: "I'm sorry we can't do that because of regulations"? Get a Major General from US Army or Marines and let them do what needs to be done NOW with what ever they have and whatever they want.

Posted by: jmhfnr | January 14, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Are you forgetting that HHS is fully mobilized, or just ignoring it?

Posted by: inishkeel | January 14, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Wizbama once again show his incompetence by pledging 100 million to Haiti as we know from past experience how corrupt their government is. A more thoughtful plan should have been put in place, but as usual wizbama steps up the check writing process in a big way without a real plan behind it.

Posted by: boski66 | January 15, 2010 2:56 AM | Report abuse

“Wizbama once again show his incompetence by pledging 100 million to Haiti as we know from past experience how corrupt their government is.”
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
And Boski66 once again shows his ignorance by claiming that the $100 million of emergency relief pledged by the US will go to the Haitian govt. In your zeal to criticize the President for whatever move he makes, you must have overlooked the fact that the Haitian govt is non-functional at the moment and will NOT be the recipient of this $100 million.

The money will be channeled through US government agencies such as USAID and the Department of Health and Human Services, and nonprofit groups like the Red Cross and World Vision. It will cover medical supplies, food, equipment, transportation, and even the salaries and living/operating expenses of the aid workers deployed to Haiti.

A portion of the $100 million may also be used to fund the US military’s emergency expenses and the Coast Guard through the Department of Homeland Security. This money will NOT be going to the Haitian govt. Educate yourself before rushing to post a knee-jerk criticism of the President.

The second most ridiculous comment was the plea to keep all “US govt agencies out of Haiti” because their onerous paperwork will allegedly kill people. Wouldn’t “govt. agencies” include the Department of Defense too? What about the Department of Homeland Security (i.e. the Coast Guard)? Stop pretending that anything related to the federal govt. is either incompetent or evil, while conveniently ignoring the fact that the US Department of Defense is the single largest government agency. And not too far behind in terms of size and scope is the Department of Homeland Security, which was the brainchild of neocons in the Bush Administration. The hypocrisy of the far right wing’s anti-govt. hysteria is shameful.

Posted by: Shadow9 | January 15, 2010 3:43 AM | Report abuse

"I think it's sad that a rescue team from the People's Republic of China arrived in Haiti hours before the first team from the U.S."

Did you consider that the China team might have been moving fast before all the damaged embassies were secured?

Posted by: HLee5 | January 15, 2010 3:59 AM | Report abuse

NOT FOR ANYTHING, AS I AM ALL ABOUT HELPING OUT OTHERS....HOWEVER....

WHEN YOU CAN'T HELP YOURSELF, YOU SURELY SHOULD NOT BE TRYING TO HELP OTHERS. THE GOVERNEMENT JUMPS TO HELP PEOPLE IN HAITI, WHAT ABOUT NEW ORLEANS? OUR OWN GOVERNMENT BARELY HELPED.

PEOPLE NEED TO WAKE UP. THE TRUTH ABOUT AMERICA.

WWW.AMERICAWAKEUPNOW.NET

Posted by: machelle_18 | January 15, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

While injured /dying victims are unable to move or escape covering debris,while others are hungry & thirsty -for days-we waste time assessing/reporting.Urgently needed is quick action to save lives-in any such disaster.Action,not talk is paramount-and waiting a few days will result in many more deaths!

Posted by: DEEKS | January 15, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

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