Haiti earthquake: Live updates Thursday

You can find our most recent blog coverage here.

Quick links: Twitter feeds about Haiti's earthquake; updating list of ways to help relief efforts; tweet us or e-mail tips to Liz Heron and Garance Franke-Ruta; submit photos from Haiti.

11:25 p.m. Note: There will be no additional updates to this blog post. We'll resume in the morning in a new Friday post.

11:10 p.m. Post's interactive map of Port-au-Prince
The Post's Nathaniel Kelso has produced an interactive map of Port-au-Prince, with photos and satellite images showing the damage in some notable locations. Click here to take a look.

An earlier post pointed to a zoomable satellite image of Port-au-Prince produced by The Post's Laris A. Karklis, using data from GeoEye the morning after the quake. Click here to see which building are still standing, road conditions, the damage to the port and how different neighborhoods fared.

10:55 p.m. Obama thanks President Fernandez of the Dominican Republic
President Obama spoke by phone with President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic shortly before 9 p.m., according to the White House. Obama expressed his appreciation for the role the Dominican Republic has played in facilitating the evacuation of U.S. citizens and in the flow of relief teams and supplies into Haiti.

7:50 p.m. FAA lifts ban on civilian flights to Haiti
The FAA told civilian aircraft Thursday night that they can resume flights to Haiti, but the agency strongly warned against the trip, advising that lengthy circling above the Port-au-Prince airport awaits any pilot who tries to go.

"Airborne holding over the past several hours has been in excess of 3 hours, and this amount of holding will possibly continue during the next several days," the agency said in an advisory, adding in a further warning, "Excessive holding and diversions [from Port-au-Prince] are a strong possibility."

The FAA had issued the "ground stop" to civilian aircraft around midday Thursday.

7:45 p.m.: Report: Telethon scheduled for Jan. 22, Clooney set to host
A telethon to help provide relief for those affected by the Haitian earthquake is scheduled for Jan. 22, Entertainment Weekly reported Thursday night.

The two-hour telethon, hosted by George Clooney, will air on ABC, NBC, HBO, CNN and all of MTV's networks worldwide, the magazine reported, citing a unnamed spokesman for the actor.

Clooney told the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday that he has been reaching out to famous friends and performers to take part in the benefit.

The spokesman said Thursday night that logistics are still being ironed out, including what organizations and charities will receive the donations.

7:33 p.m. Obama to write Newsweek cover story on crisis
President Obama will write the cover story for Newsweek magazine next week, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Jan. 25th issue of Newsweek, which is owned by The Washington Post Co., will feature the president's thoughts on Haiti and the earthquake.

7:16 p.m. Fairfax County prepares to send 2nd rescue team

Fairfax Firefighter Rodney Vaughn with his wife, Erica and Leah, 2 and Savannah, 4 children, "Banks," a black laborador retriever who will be sniffing through the rubble in search of life. (By Hamil R. Harris.)

Mike Miller's son and daughter were clinging tight to their daddy as he stood amid 42 yellow backpacks Thursday at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue training academy in Vienna.

By daybreak Friday, a second wave of emergency workers from the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Squad expected to be on a charter flight to Port-au-Prince, and soon afterward sifting through tons of rock and concrete in search of life.

But on Thursday, Miller's main task was to explain to Mike Jr., his 4-year-old son; and 6-year-old daughter, McKenna, that he would gone from home for about two weeks.

"It is very hard. When I found out that I was going, I called my wife and had them bring them down here to the school," said Miller, 40, of Leesburg, who usually works as a lieutenant at a Springfield fire station.

Miller, a rescue specialist, is among 42 members in the second deployment of "Virginia Task Force 1." The first group, 72 rescuers of varying specialties, flew to the island nation Wednesday.

Searching for life in the rubble is a familiar duty for members of the fire and rescue department. The team was created in 1986 to respond to domestic and international disasters, and is one of only two rescue groups in the country that the U.S. government sends to disasters around the world.

Jim Strickland, a retired deputy chief of the department, has been in the squad from the beginning. He will serve as the group's deputy leader. "We are ready to go help," he said. "Everybody's motor is revved up and we want to go down there and help the people."
-- Hamil R. Harris

7:06 p.m. U.S. Officials: airlift alone won't be enough
U.S. authorities involved with the relief operation said an airlift alone will not be enough to supply 3 million people affected by the Haiti earthquake with food and other vital relief supplies, and said they are pushing to mobilize military or private assets to set up a temporary port near Port-au-Prince.

"The population of Haiti cannot be sustained without some way of getting large quantities of cargo in quickly, and with the port facilities in Port-au-Prince, that's going to be very difficult," said Capt. Peter Brown, chief of response operations for the U.S. Coast Guard 7th District based in Miami. "Airlift is certainly part of the equation, but we understand that with the limited capacity of the airfield in Port-au-Prince that's not the U.S. government's primary option there."

U.S. officials noted that the city sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains whose roads are very limited. To bring in food, oil and goods, Port-au-Prince relies on its seaport, which offloads more than 1 million tons of cargo a year, much of it aboard large ocean-going container ships that dock at a rate of two or three per week.

However, the port's main commercial pier, wharf and crane that offloads shipping containers have collapsed and are in the water, Coast Guard officials said. Alternatives include using much smaller ports such as Saint-Marc or Cap Haitien to the north, but they have limited facilities. One option is to bring in private crane-ships that can offload containers, or other military logistics vessels.

"The only option will be breaking cargo down into much smaller containers and bring them ashore by small boat. That's going to limit the ability to deliver sufficient quantities," especially of food, Brown said. "We are working with the Department of Defense and the State Department, especially DoD, to alert them to this situation and so they can look at what DOD capacities might be used to erect temporary facilities to allow the movement of supplies.".
-- Spencer S. Hsu

6:59 p.m. At Mass, Catholic U student urges support for victims
A Catholic University student who hasn't been able to contact some of his relatives in Haiti spoke at a mass at Catholic University on Thursday and urged support for the victims of the earthquake, according to a news release from the school.

"In Haiti, family is everything," said Remy Gouraige, a sophomore economics major from Miami. "This is a situation that the Haitian peoples cannot recover from on their own: we need the help of our world family to provide relief, support and hope for any kind of a future for the country."

The Mass marked the beginning of the novena -- nine days of prayer -- which will continue until Friday, Jan. 22.

"For my family, for me ... this disaster is hitting very close to home," said Gouraige, whose parents emigrated from Haiti. "I have aunts, cousins, and several other relatives who we haven't heard from, and they are only a few of the hundreds of thousands of people who are being affected."

6:50 p.m. Audio: Washington Post reporter on travel into Haiti

Traveling by bus from the Dominican Republic to Haiti with members of the Atlanta-based humanitarian group CARE, The Washington Post's Theola Labbé-DeBose reports on the challenge aid workers face getting into the earthquake-ravaged country. (Theola Labbé-DeBose and Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

6:45 p.m. Obama: No excuses; "This is a time when the world looks to us"
"I just want everybody in the House of Representatives to understand this is a moment for American leadership," President Obama told the House Democratic Caucus Retreat on Thursday evening, according to a transcript provided by the White House.

"This is a time when the world looks to us and they say, given our capacity, given our unique capacity to project power around the world, that we have to project that not just for our own interests but for the interests of the world as a whole. And my national security team understands that I will not put up with any excuses for us not doing the very best in this time of tragedy."

6:05 p.m. A zoomable satellite image of Port-au-Prince
The Post's Laris A. Karklis has produced a zoomable satellite image of Port-au-Prince the morning after the quake from GeoEye data. Click here to see which building are still standing, road conditions, the damage to the port and how different neighborhoods fared.

5:32 p.m. Diplomat identified as 1st American quake victim
The Post's Glenn Kessler sends word that State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has announced a death in the diplomatic family:

"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 -- did previously serve in our Bureau of Public Affairs during her career."

The AP describes her as "the first American reported killed by the earthquake."

5:28 p.m. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush issue joint statement
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush issued a joint statement late Thursday afternoon saying, "We are pleased to accept President Obama's request to lead private sector fundraising efforts."

They continued: "In the days and weeks ahead, we will draw attention to the many ways American citizens and businesses can help meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people.

"Americans have a long history of showing compassion and generosity in the wake of tragedy. We thank the American people for rallying to help our neighbors in the Caribbean in their hour of suffering -- and throughout the journey of rebuilding their nation."

5:16 p.m. Only one runway into Port-au-Prince, leading to congestion, delays
While the United States has sent four specialized urban search and rescue teams to help dig out buried earthquake victims in Haiti, six more teams have been cleared to go but are awaiting permission to fly to Port-au-Prince, an official familiar with the situation said.

The problem is not a shortage of aircraft. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made them available. The problem is congested airport operations. The airfield in Port-au-Prince only has one runway, the official said, and the same strip of tarmac is used as a taxiway by arriving and departing aircraft.

Adding to the problem is the need to prioritize the flow of communications gear, medical supplies and critical personnel, and the need to coordinate flight slots among countries, the official said.

"The decision has been made to support search and rescue and deploy up to those 10 teams. Again, the problem with airlift and everyone trying to get flights in, and congestion, and a lot of countries -- we're having to prioritize and flow these teams in as you can get airspace," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive disaster response operations.

"You're now dealing with a very significant area of damage, and you have very limited ways of getting there. ... It's next to impossible to get through the roads in the mountain areas," the official said.

Two rescue teams from Fairfax County, Va., and Los Angeles County, Calif. -- each including up to 48 tons of heavy equipment, search dogs, fiber optic cameras and listening devices -- already have arrived in Port-au-Prince, and two more, from Miami and Miami-Dade County, Fla., were on their way Thursday afternoon.
--Spencer S. Hsu

4:48 p.m. ABC: Wyclef Jean's tweets raise $1 million for Haiti
Celebrities, most notably Haitian musician Wyclef Jean, are raising record amounts of money online to help relief efforts in Haiti, ABC News reports.

Fund-raising experts say this is the most money ever to be raised so soon after a disaster, according to ABC.

"This is a watershed moment. It's historic," said Albe Angel, founder and CEO of Give On the Go, whose company is helping Jean raise funds for his Yele Haiti Foundation.

4:30 p.m. American in Haiti: 'Blood into gutter like water'

The director of a Haitian orphanage says thankfully her building held up but she says the surrounding area looks like a bomb went off and bodies line the streets. (Jan. 14, The Associated Press)

4:21 p.m. Updated UN casualty figures
Colum Lynch forwards updated casualty figures from David Wimhurst, a United Nations spokesman in Haiti:

*4 police dead, 9 injured and 18 missing out of force of 2,090 police in Haiti.
*19 peacekeepers dead, 26 injured and 10 missing out of total of over 7,000.
*13 international staff (including volunteers) dead, 38 injured (of which 24 are Haitians) out of total of 490 international staff, 235 national staff, and 215 UN volunteers.
*160 UN staff still unaccounted for.
*13 bodies recovered from the wreckage of the Christopher Hotel.
* 8 live rescues from Christopher Hotel and another nearby UN facility.

4:19 p.m. Haitian hospitals in crisis

Desperately needed aid from around the world is slowly making its way into Haiti, where a leadership vacuum is leaving rescuers scrambling on their own to save the trapped and injured and get relief supplies into the capital. (Jan. 14, The Associated Press)

4:04 p.m. Obama reaches out to former campaign organization
President Obama on Thursday reached out to the members of this former presidential campaign organization, Obama for America, telling his supporters "the OFA community can help."

OFA is now run by the Democratic National Committee and has won mixed reviews nearly a year after the candidate it helped elect took office.

"Despite the fact that we are experiencing tough times here at home, I encourage those who can to reach out and help. It's in times like these that we must show the kind of compassion and humanity that has defined the best of our national character for generations," the president wrote in an e-mail message. "Click here to find out what you can do: http://my.barackobama.com/Haiti."

3:45 p.m. USAID releases fact sheet on Haiti assistance
The briefing includes background on the crisis, current situation, and information on humanitarian assistance and public donation.

3:37 p.m. Gibbs: Limbaugh, Robertson remarks 'utterly stupid'
Missed this tidbit earlier, from Michael Shear:

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs lashed out at radio host Rush Limbaugh and televangelist Pat Robertson, calling their comments about the Haitian earthquake "stupid."

Robertson said on his television broadcast that the earthquake was the result of a "pact with the devil" made by the Haitian people. Limbaugh said on his radio show that Americans should not donate to Haitian relief because "we've already donated to Haiti. It's called the U.S. income tax."

Asked about Robertson's comments, Gibbs said, "It never ceases to amaze that in times of amazing human suffering, someone says something that could be so utterly stupid. But like clockwork, it happens with some regularity."


3:27 p.m. Who is Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. response?

Here's more on the brand new USAID chief Rajiv Shah, from our colleague Philip Rucker:

Five days after being sworn into his new job, Rajiv Shah found himself in the White House Situation Room, seated four chairs from President Obama, and overseeing the U.S. government's response to the earthquake that has devastated Haiti.

As Obama's designated "unified disaster coordinator," the 36-year-old doctor has been working furiously to deploy relief workers, brief Cabinet secretaries and serve as a public spokesman for the administration's rescue and recovery efforts -- all while on just a few hours of sleep and an untold number of Diet Cokes.

Shah, the newly minted USAID administrator, has wowed the White House and State Department in his maiden turn in the spotlight, with top officials in both departments praising his steady leadership and command of the evolving operations in Port-au-Prince.

"Dr. Shah has been excellent," said Denis McDonough, National Security Council chief of staff, who has worked closely with Shah since the earthquake struck Tuesday. "Focused. Calm. Facts-based."


3:18 p.m. VOA steps up emergency broadcasts to Haiti

The Voice of America's (VOA) Creole Service says it will be increasing its strength and frequency of emergency broadcasts to Haiti. The VOA says it will use a combination of shortwave, AM and satellite broadcasts to provide information.

"We're doing everything we possibly can to reach people in Haiti who have a desperate need for information," Alberto Mascaro, chief of VOA's Latin America Division, said in a statement.

Creole Service programming on shortwave and satellite radio has expanded from 1 1/2 hours daily to 5 hours. Programming will air from 7:30-8:30 a.m. EST; 12:30-2:30 p.m.; 5:00-6:00 p.m. EST and 8:00-9:00 p.m. EST. The evening programs can also be heard on 1180 a.m. from a transmitter and tower in Marathon, Fla., preempting Radio Marti at those times.

VOA also has set up a special call-in number - 1-202-205-9942, mailbox 42 - for people to leave messages that will be broadcast to Haiti. Facebook and Twitter accounts have also been created in Creole. Up-to-date information is also available around the clock on VOANews.com/creole.
--Monica Norton

3:14 p.m. FAA Stops all civilian flights from U.S. to Haiti
The Federal Aviation Administration halted all civilian flights from the U.S. to Haiti on Thursday at the request of the Haitian government, an official said, according to The Federal Eye. The ground stop will continue until at least 4 p.m., but may be extended or ended before then, the official said.

Haitian officials prohibited flights from entering Haitian airspace earlier Thursday as the Port-au-Prince tarmac was clogged with several planes trying to unload relief supplies, the official said. The airport in the capital also lacks sufficient fuel to refuel departing flights.

Nine planes from the U.S. were already in the air when FAA issued the ground stop and could not land in Haiti, the official said.

The agency initially issued the ground stop to end at 2 p.m. ET, but officials extended it until 4 p.m. ET. The official cautioned the ground stop could end sooner if Haitian officials permit flights to land. Track FAA's advisories on Haitian airspace here.

3:04 p.m. Gourmet editor: NY restaurants to hold Haiti night
The former editor of Gourmet Magazine, Ruth Reichl, tweets:

  
@ruthreichl: Dept. of good ideas: Some NY restaurants doing Haiti Dine Out Night on Sunday. 10% of proceeds, 5% of tips go to rescue efforts in Haiti.

Updated post, 2:55 p.m. Sites search for missing Haitians
Reader Thomas Hardman alerts us to another Web site that is attempting to connect missing Haitians with their loved ones: Haitianquake.com is using an online form to create a database of missing people, and promises to contact you if your relative or friend is found.

What other similar platforms have sprung up to address this crisis? Have you heard of anyone successfully finding a missing person through these Web sites? Tweet us, leave a note in the comments or send tips through email.

Here is our earlier post:

Since Haiti was rocked by an earthquake Tuesday evening, several new ways to search for and hopefully connect with missing friends and relatives have popped up online.

The International Committee of the Red Cross added a section for Haiti on their Family Links web site, which aims to restore contact between separated family members. The site allows earthquake victims to register themselves, or family members to list missing relatives.

Ushahidi, a web platform that aggregates mobile and online crisis reports geographically, has started a Haiti page that allows users in country to upload reports by phone, Twitter or email. Ushahidi's Haiti map is currently tracking emergency situations -- collapsed buildings, trapped people, fires and quake aftershocks -- as well as where to find relief services such as medical tents and shelters.

What is Ushahidi? from Ushahidi on Vimeo.

The Miami Herald launched Haiti Connect, a forum to search for relatives and friends by posting their photos and soliciting information from other users of the site who might know something about the whereabouts of missing loved ones.

Another site, koneksyon.com, facilitates hundreds of discussion threads that touch on not only missing people but advice o how to find and connect with Haitians during the aftermath. The site was created the morning after the earthquake by web designers Sebastien Barrau and Marvin Chery, who ask users to contact them through twitter, @sebastienb and @reveiled.

CNN's iReport has also seen lots of activity from those seeking information on loved ones who were in Haiti during the earthquake.

2:47 p.m. U.N. will need hundreds of millions of dollars
Our colleague Colum Lynch reports that John Holmes, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said that the U.N. will need hundreds of millions dollars in assistance to respond to the the earthquake. Meanwhile, there are still up to 150 U.N. personnel missing.

2:40 p.m. Groups seek temporary legal status for Haitians
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.

By law the secretary of homeland security, in consultation with the secretary of state, can offer "temporary protected status," or TPS, to illegal immigrants of a particular nationality if calamities such as a natural disaster or war make it too burdensome for their home countries to receive them.

Immigrants must pay a fee to apply for TPS and are eligible only if they were already in the United States at the time the benefit was offered and if they do not have a criminal record. The status is usually granted for up to 18 months, but the government can, and often does, renew it repeatedly as conditions warrant.
--N.C. Aizenman

2:29 p.m. More corporations kicking in with Haiti relief
Economy Watch has a longer list of companies that are offering to support relief efforts, including The Walt Disney Co., Google, Apple, UPS and FedEx (which is offering to fly supplies to the country for free).

2:21 p.m. Local Haitian learns 15 people have died in quake
While the agonizing wait for news of their loved ones continued Thursday for many Washington-area Haitian immigrants, Arielle Jean-Baptiste finally heard from her relatives in Port-au-Prince Thursday and learned that fifteen people she knew had died.

Among those killed were her son's mother-in-law, a 58-year-old accountant who was in her office when the earthquake hit Tuesday. The building collapsed.

"Her daughter found her body," said Jean-Baptiste, 50 who lives in Silver Spring and was still trying to absorb the magnitude of the losses.

"The news is starting to come in," she said. "It is unraveling now. There's no time right now for the dead. It's time to look for the living. We'll mourn them for years to come. For years."

An uncle and a close friend who's like a sister to her are still unaccounted for, said Jean-Baptiste, who fears the death toll among her relatives, friends and acquaintances will climb in the coming days.
--Tara Bahrampour

2:18 p.m. Images of the dead
Erik Parker, a former editor with The Source and VIBE music magazines, has posted a series of pictures from Port-au-Prince on Twitpic. Many of these images are of the dead, crushed where they were or pulled from rubble and dead on the streets, and quite graphic.

Parker is the author of The Parker Report, an online multimedia hip-hop magazine.

2:00 p.m. Rumor mill: No free American Airlines flights
American Airlines' media relations department tells us that a rumor going around the web that they are providing free flights to Haiti for doctors and nurses is NOT true. However, they are offering bonus frequent-flier miles to those who donate to relief efforts. Several other companies are offering free assistance to victims or incentives to donate to relief efforts.

Make a donation to the American Red Cross and earn AAdvantage® bonus miles. If you would like to join us in supporting the victims of the earthquake in Haiti by making a donation, American will reward your generosity with an AAdvantage bonus mile offer. Through February 28, 2010, AAdvantage members can earn a one-time award of 250 bonus miles for a minimum $50 donation, or 500 bonus miles for a donation of $100 or more to the American Red Cross.

In addition, we just blogged about web-based phone company Rebtel handing out 4,000 voucher codes valid for 10 minutes of free calling each to Haiti.

Have you seen other companies providing free service vouchers to victims of the earthquake?

1:43 p.m. Credit card companies profiting from online donation fees
The Huffington Post's Laura Bassett reports that only about 97 percent of online credit card donations make it to charities -- while "the other 3 percent will be skimmed off by banks and credit card companies to cover their 'transaction costs.'"

Companies that do not regularly charge transaction fees on charitable donations include Capital One, she reports. Others might ultimately decide to waive the fees due to the sized of the emergency in Haiti, as some companies did after the tsunami in Asia in 2004.

"After the tsunami, we had thousands of donations, and American Express and I think one other company temporarily waived their fees. So if this thing ramps up, we'll try to get in touch with these banks and see if they'll waive the fee again for us," Richard Walden, the CEO of international relief group Operation USA, told the Huffington Post.


1:41 p.m. Va. college volunteers arrived day before earthquake

In their last blog posts before disaster struck on Tuesday, the two students and two supervisors from Blue Ridge Community College in Harrisonburg, Va., enthused about the warm welcome they had received from the nuns and children at a school in Rivière Froide about 20 miles southwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

"The place we are staying in [is] very nice," veterinary technician Gail Foley wrote Monday night after the team had arrived with 120 pounds of donations and settled into a convent guesthouse at the school. "What a pleasant surprise....... It feels very safe here."

The group survived the powerful earthquake that rocked Haiti the next day; the four were visiting a project in the small town of Signeau, where they helped build cages at a rabbit cooperative that the college helped establish.

But the school and convent did not escape the tragedy.

At Rivière Froide, "the school collapsed on the school children," an American volunteer in Haiti, Myrian Kaplan-Pasternak, wrote in an e-mail to her organization, explaining that the Blue Ridge group was with her in Signeau. "We had a long night, but luckily we arrived a bit late and were not in the guest house, which also collapsed."

That e-mail came as an enormous relief to the families and friends of the two students -- Michael Aronoff, 21, of Vienna, Va., and Megan Samples, 19, of Harrisonburg -- and the two community college staffers: Foley and Rebecca Evans, an assistant professor and adviser of the Students in Free Enterprise outreach program. So far, that has been the only word about the group's fate.

According to Cindy Aronoff, the mother of Michael, about 1,000 children attended the Rivière Froide school. Her son had related how the students repeatedly sang songs for them, and he lamented that the children went without lunch on the day the group arrived as the nuns feted their visitors with a feast.

"Now these children have been crushed," she said. "It's just awful."

Also terrible, she said, was the 24 hours she spent not knowing whether her son was alive or not. "Once we got the news that he was alive, it was such a relief," Cindy Aronoff said.
--William Branigan

1:31 p.m. Phone company gives out free 10-minute vouchers
Web-based phone company Rebtel is handing out 4,000 voucher codes valid for 10 minutes of free calling each to Haiti.

Please submit the voucher code helphaiti on this page to get 10 free minutes to your loved ones to make sure that they are unscathed. There are no strings attached, just call and make sure they are ok. Your 10 minutes will be valid for 90 days.
We would also like to highlight that the quake has inflicted significant damage to the telecom infrastructure in Haiti. Therefore, calls to some local carriers might be difficult to connect. If your call doesn't connect instantly, please try again, as officials are continuously working on resolving the problems.

Have you seen other companies providing free service vouchers to victims of the earthquake?

1:20 p.m. LIVE NOW: chat with UN spokesperson
Farhan Haq, a United Nations spokesperson, is taking questions online about rescue efforts for the UN's missing employees in Haiti and the rest of the latest news from ground zero. Click here to join the chat.

12:51 p.m. Red Cross raises more than $3 million by text message
Posts about Haiti continued to fly across Twitter Thursday morning, more than a day after an earthquake rocked the Caribbean nation.

Posts encouraging text- or Web-based donations dominated some threads, with new posts appearing every few seconds urging people to donate by texting to various phone numbers or by visiting certain Web sites.

Several tweets reported that nearly $3 million already had been donated to the Red Cross via text messages. American Red Cross spokeswoman Carrie Housman confirmed Thursday morning the organization had in fact received more than $3 million through a system in which people could donate $10 by texting "HAITI" to the number 90999.

Housman also said the American Red Cross had received more than $10 million overall in donations, including through online giving and phone calls.
--McLean Bennett

12:32 p.m. Michelle Obama to tape public service announcement for Red Cross
First lady Michelle Obama visited the Department of Labor Thursday morning as part of her ongoing outreach to the federal agencies and used the opportunity to speak about the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. In the afternoon, she will tape a public service announcement for the Red Cross, she announced.

"Before we begin, I do want to take a moment just to express my profound heartbreak and our nation's deepest support for the people of Haiti, in the wake of this just devastating disaster that they have suffered," she said.

"The destruction and the suffering that we see, the images that are coming out of that country are just overwhelming. And it is important for the people of Haiti to know that we are keeping the victims of this tragedy and their loved ones in our thoughts, in our prayers, and that also includes prayers going out to all of the Haitian-Americans who have families and friends there, and they're worried about them back home. It's difficult to get word. People don't know where folks are. This is a tough time for Haitian-American citizens here as well.

"And we also want to send our thoughts and prayers out to the American citizens who are working and living in Haiti, as well," she said.

Mrs. Obama urged those who wish to help to visit the White House web site for information on relief organizations and aid groups "to see what you can do to support our friends in Haiti in this time of urgent need."

"This is going to be something that we're going to have to put our attention to for many years to come," she said.

12:13 p.m. 22 UN personnel confirmed dead, 150 still missing
At UN headquarters, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the U.N.'s effort to assess the damage in Haiti remained unclear. "The overall picture remains still sketchy," he told reporters. But the "facts as far as we know it are grim."

Ban confirmed that 22 UN peacekeepers and police have been confirmed dead and that as many as 150 UN staff remain unaccounted for. But he provided no new figures on the number of dead Haitian or foreign civilians. "The death toll I feel could be very high. Clearly this is a major humanitarian crisis."

In a rare piece of good news, Ban said that an Estonian police officer, Tarmo Joveer, 38, was pulled out alive from the rubble of the Christopher Hotel, which serves as the UN's headquarters in Haiti. He said rescue workers heard scratching sounds coming from beneath the wreckage and that they lowered a rubber pipe 12 feet below the street to supply Joveer with water. "It was a small miracle during the night that brought few other miracles," Ban said.

The rescue workers came from Fairfax, Va.; video of their work is below.
--Colum Lynch

12:05 p.m. U.S. searchers scour for victims

A search and rescue team from Fairfax, Virginia, is on the ground in quake-stricken Haiti, helping in the search for survivors and victims. The team, along with their dogs, have been at the site of the U.N. headquarters in Haiti. (The Associated Press)

11:16 a.m. Former presidents Clinton and Bush will lead U.S. relief effort
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will partner to lead America's humanitarian and relief efforts to Haiti, aides to both men said Thursday.

President Obama has asked his two predecessors to work together in a partnership similar to one that Clinton and former President George H. W. Bush created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Asian tsunami in 2004. Although the White House has not announced the specific framework of the partnership, Clinton and Bush are expected to help raise money and keep the nation's focus on Haiti during the recovery process.

Clinton, who also serves as the United Nations special envoy to Haiti, has been a vocal advocate for the impoverished nation in the wake of this week's earthquake. Bush has stayed largely quiet, and the partnership could be his most public role since leaving office last year.
--Philip Rucker

11:07 a.m. Bidens to highlight recovery efforts in New Orleans, meet with Haitian Americans in Florida
Vice President Biden will make appearances in New Orleans and Cameron Parish, La., Friday to highlight the administration's ongoing commitment to the recovery and rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast region after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He will be joined for both events by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D); Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin will join him in New Orleans.

On Saturday, the vice president and his wife, Jill Biden, will meet with members of the Haitian-American community in South Florida to discuss crisis response efforts in Haiti. They will also meet with crisis response teams mobilizing to go to Haiti.

10:58 a.m. Raw video: U.S. aid arrives in Haiti

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. (Associated Press)

10:31 a.m. Obama pledges $100 million in aid

President Obama pledged $100 million toward what he called a massive logistical effort to rescue people in the demolished capital of Haiti and vowed that the world will not abandon the devastated nation.

"You will not be forsaken. You will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you," Obama said Thursday morning. "Today you must know that help is arriving. Much, much more help in on the
way."

Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Vice President Joe Biden, Obama pledged that the immediate rescue of Haiti's people, as well as its long-term recovery, will be a top priority of the U.S. government.

Obama said Biden will meet with Haitian-Americans in south Florida over the weekend to coordinate that community's efforts even as the military and diplomatic efforts continue in Haiti.

In his second remarks on the crisis, Obama called the aftermath of the earthquake "nothing less than devastating." But he appeared eager to offer the people of Haiti -- including thousands of American on the island -- some amount of hope in the days ahead.

"None of this will seem quick enough if you have a loved one who is trapped, if you're sleeping on the streets, if you can't feed your children," the president acknowledged. But he added, "More American search and rescue teams are coming, more food, more water, doctors, nurses, paramedics."

Obama said 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. More Coast Guard cutters are steaming toward the island, he said.

The president acknowledged that distribution of the goods and services arriving on the island is difficult. The roads are damaged, he said, and communications in the city are just beginning to recover. He said a U.S. survey team had provided its assessment to government agencies and non-government aid groups last night.

"This morning, I can report that the first waves of our rescue and relief workers are on the ground and at work," he said.

Obama said the initial $100 million investment will grow as America helps to rebuild its neighbor's infrastructure in the coming year. He said the government's resources will be combined with the generosity of Americans who he thanked for the contributions they have already made.
--Michael D. Shear

10:09 a.m. LIVE NOW: chat with World Vision
Casey Calamusa, communications director at World Vision, is taking questions about relief efforts in Haiti.

9:54 a.m. Updated list of U.S. government response to Haiti
Ed O'Keefe at the Federal Eye has more information on how the U.S. government is tackling the massive relief effort in Haiti:

"The depth of it and the extent of it is just magnificent," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday morning in response to the Haiti disaster. She appeared on all six network and cable television morning programs to update the government's response efforts after canceling a long scheduled trip to the Pacific Rim region.

"The hopeful news is that we don't have many reports yet," of dead Americans in Haiti, Clinton told CBS's "The Early Show."

"As you know the cellphones were down, all kinds of difficulties. We are locating Americans, we are evacuating those Americans that wish to leave. We're evacuating some of the injured Americans."

Asked on CBS if the Obama administration will grant temporary protective status to Haitian Americans, Clinton said the government is taking steps to do so "so that we don't compound the problem that we face in Haiti."

Read more about the State Dept., USAID, Homeland Security, FAA, FCC, FBI and military response.

9:34 a.m. New USAID chief takes over during Haiti crisis


Rajiv Shah (Associated Press)

Just days after being sworn in as the new USAID administrator, Rajiv Shah has been tasked by Obama to lead the relief effort through the Office of Disaster Assistance. He is coordinating an interagency team that includes FEMA and the Homeland Security Department.

WhoRunsGov.com has more on the 36-year-old Shah, who has a background in medicine and was once a top official at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Foreign Policy reports that Shah was out in front by yesterday morning to explain the Obama administration's response to the crisis.

"We are working aggressively and in a highly coordinated way across the federal government to bring all of the assets and capacities we have to bear to quickly and effectively provide as much assistance as possible," Shah told reporters yesterday. "The goal of the relief effort in the first 72 hours will be very focused on saving lives. That is the president's top priority and is what the president has directed us to do."

9:15 a.m. U.S. sending 300 medical personnel to Haiti
The United States will send 300 medical personnel to Haiti and has placed 12,000 on alert for possible deployment to the quake-stricken country, said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, according to Reuters.

"We have disaster medical teams being mobilized, surgical teams," she said in an interview with MSNBC. "We have 12,000 medical personnel on alert. Three-hundred of them are on their way today."

9:06 a.m. Thousands send help to Haiti through text messages; FBI warns of scams
PostTech reports that within 24 hours after the earthquake, thousands of U.S. mobile phone users had sent more than $1 million in donations via text message to the Red Cross for relief efforts, according to wireless carriers.

In addition to number and donation systems through short messages that were set up yesterday by the State Department and various charities, aid was also brought in the form of telecommunications services on the ground in Haiti through the non-governmental organization, Telecom without Borders, which deployed two emergency response teams to Port-au-Prince.

The Red Cross tweeted that they raised nearly $3 million through mobile giving.

Meanwhile, the FBI is warning potential charitable givers to steer clear of scammers purporting to provide relief to Haiti. Included in the FBI's advice:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
  • Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group's existence and its nonprofit status rather than following a purported link to the site.
  • Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

9:03 a.m. Obama to speak on Haiti at 10 a.m.
The White House just sent out an alert stating that President Obama will make brief remarks on recovery efforts in Haiti at 10 a.m. Stay tuned for video coverage.

8:55 a.m. Chat online with World Vision at 10 a.m.
Casey Calamusa, communications director at World Vision, will be on washingtonpost.com at 10 a.m. ET to discuss relief efforts in Haiti. World Vision has a staff of 70 workers and volunteers in Port-au-Prince (a total of 370 in the country) and is sending out 18 metric tons of supplies today. Calamusa is in touch staffers on the ground, and gives us a sense of what things look like this morning:

"The earthquake has devastated Port-au-Prince. Our staff in the city say the low-lying areas have been hit the hardest, and that many roads are still impassable due to rubble and debris. Food, water and shelter are in great demand. Many people are afraid to go back inside for fear of aftershocks, and so they are sleeping outside. Telecommunications remain extremely unreliable and many people are still unable to contact friends and loved
ones to see if they are ok."

8:32 a.m. Web sites emerge to search for missing Haitians
Since Haiti was rocked by an earthquake Tuesday evening, several new ways to search for and hopefully connect with missing friends and relatives have popped up online.

The International Committee of the Red Cross added a section for Haiti on their Family Links web site, which aims to restore contact between separated family members. The site allows earthquake victims to register themselves, or family members to list missing relatives.

Ushahidi, a web platform that aggregates mobile and online crisis reports geographically, has started a Haiti page that allows users in country to upload reports by phone, Twitter or email. Ushahidi's Haiti map is currently tracking emergency situations -- collapsed buildings, trapped people, fires and quake aftershocks -- as well as where to find relief services such as medical tents and shelters.

What is Ushahidi? from Ushahidi on Vimeo.

The Miami Herald launched Haiti Connect, a forum to search for relatives and friends by posting their photos and soliciting information from other users of the site who might know something about the whereabouts of missing loved ones.

Another site, koneksyon.com, facilitates hundreds of discussion threads that touch on not only missing people but advice o how to find and connect with Haitians during the aftermath. The site was created the morning after the earthquake by web designers Sebastien Barrau and Marvin Chery, who ask users to contact them through twitter, @sebastienb and @reveiled.

CNN's iReport has also seen lots of activity from those seeking information on loved ones who were in Haiti during the earthquake.

What other similar platforms have sprung up to address this crisis? Tweet us, leave a note in the comments or send tips through email.

8:20 a.m. Google Earth releases post-quake photos
In case you missed it last night, the Google Crisis Response Team released a Google Earth imagery layer of Haiti post-quake.

"We've worked closely with GeoEye throughout the afternoon to make their most recent satellite imagery of Haiti, taken at approximately 10:27am EST [Wednesday], available as a KML overlay for Google Earth," the team writes, noting, "As you'll see, the imagery shows a powerful glimpse into the destruction in Haiti." View before and after Google Earth images of the presidential palace and an area of Port-au-Prince, and to download the imagery layer.

8:21 a.m. Video of the quake happening emerges
Another development you may have missed last night:

"The CBS News Investigative Unit has acquired video of buildings collapsing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during the country's worst earthquake since 1770. The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.0 and dozens of aftershocks. "

8:13 a.m. Clinton: Too soon to estimate casualties
Appearing on morning network news shows after cutting short an overseas trip, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it's still too early to make a firm estimate of the number of deaths in the wake of Tuesday's devastating, 7.0 magnitude earthquake. But she said officials know that approximately 3 million people, including 45,000 Americans, have been affected and that "tens of thousands, we fear, are dead."

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


7:56 a.m. Vast homelessness problem emerging in Haiti

The Post's Mary Beth Sheridan reports that tens of thousands of Haitians are sleeping on sidewalks or wandering the streets of heavily damaged Port-au-Prince this morning:

There was little sign of international relief arriving as Haitians struggled to find survivors in collapsed buildings. Before dawn, a man in downtown Port-au-Prince appealed to a crowd of dozing residents to help pull bodies from destroyed buildings.

In the central Bel Air neighborhood, the streets and sidewalks were covered with people sleeping on mattresses, plastic chairs and bits of cardboard.

"The few houses still standing have cracks. Everyone thinks they are too dangerous," said one man in the neighborhood, who had settled onto the sidewalk with his family.

Indeed, the neighborhood had largely been reduced to rubble. Flames licked from the shell of one ruined building. Balconies had crashed to the ground. Cars were buried under chunks of gray concrete the size of dining-room tables. The street was littered with bricks, shattered plastic chairs, glittering shards of glass.

Huge crowds swarmed through the city overnight, carrying meager possessions--a cooking pot, a sack of vegetables--and shoeless toddlers with terrified eyes. Many people had wrapped themselves in bedsheets, adding to the ghostly air.

Some said they were leaving their homes not only because of the damage but because of rumors of a possible tsunami.

Every time a slight tremor shook the city, the crowds dozing on sidewalks or in parks erupted in shrieks and prayers.

Much of the capital appeared to be without electricity and running water. Pools of green sewage water pooled outside the streets of ruined homes.

Downtown, the ornate white French-style presidential palace was heavily damaged, its two side cupolas leaning at crazy angles and the main cupola pancaked.

Read more here.

7:50 a.m. Live-blogging the earthquake aftermath
Good morning. We'll be blogging about the situation in Haiti again today. To read yesterday's thread, click here.

January 14, 2010; 7:35 AM ET  | Category:  world
Previous: Haiti earthquake: Live updates | Next: Haiti earthquake: Friday's latest news

Comments

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Several progressive organizations, including True Majority, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Credo, DFA, and USAction are helping to raise funds for Doctors w/out Borders in Haiti.

Please help us send much needed medical help and aid to the victims of this terrible earthquake.

The website is http://bit.ly/Progs4Haiti

Thank you.

Posted by: alanrosenblatt | January 14, 2010 11:14 AM

Interesting in a matter of couple of days US goverment help is in Haiti. How come it took weeks months to send federial help to the Americans out west who had the major flood and lost everything. Many still do not have there homes rebuilt. WQhy is Washington sending 100 million dollars on Haiti while Americans are still homeless out west. Shame on Obama. I guess if your black in Haiti you have Obama attention.
I hate this goverment of ours....Then to make matters worst Obama has Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will partner to lead America's humanitarian. Where were these two loosers when Americans were dieing out west??>??? Bin Laden had the right idea trying to take out Washington....

Posted by: Fathertimema | January 14, 2010 12:11 PM

Earthquakes remind us that life is a very fragile thing. And that some things are beyond the control "Of Mice and Men."

Posted by: tncdel | January 14, 2010 12:42 PM

Better buildings are essential. A quake of this magnitude would not kill 50,000 persons in America, unless it hit NYC.

Posted by: Martial | January 14, 2010 2:46 PM

I think they're going to have to redirect all flights to Miami, consolidate loads and fuel the planes for a trip over and a return (so they don't have to refuel in Haiti, where it is likely time consuming and scarce). I imagine once the air bridge is operational planes won't even have time to kill their engines, offloading as fast as possible to get back in the air and allow another to land.

The logistics of this are mind-boggling.

Posted by: idiparker | January 14, 2010 11:19 PM

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