Clinton postpones Asia trip, returns to D.C. to help with Haiti relief effort
BY Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cut short her trip to the Pacific today and flew directly from Hawaii to Washington D.C. to help lead the U.S. aid effort in Haiti.
Clinton spoke with reporters today at the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters at Camp Smith before heading back to Washington.
Her original schedule had her leaving for Papua New Guinea today then heading to New Zealand on Saturday and Australia on Sunday.
“I think this is the most severe earthquake to hit Haiti and the Caribbean in the last 250 years," she said.
Clinton's decision was made after consulting with President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, according to the State Department.
Earlier today, Obama designated Shah the coordinator for the U.S. relief effort, which will involve U.S. military ships, planes and personnel to help the devastated Caribbean nation.
Clinton said she spoke today with the president of nearby Dominican Republic and United Nations officials, as well the foreign ministers of Brazil and France to help coordinate aid to the stricken country.
“I think you will see an outpouring of support,” she said.
She said Haiti’s president, Rene Preval, is alive but communications systems are down in the country.
About 45,000 American citizens were in Haiti when the earthquake struck, according to Clinton. Relatives and friends who want to inquire about their status can call a State Department hotline at (888) 407-4747, she said.
Clinton said the damage from the Haiti earthquake was comparable to the Indonesian tsunami that claimed more than 160,000 lives five years ago.
The U.N. mission’s headquarters in Haiti suffered “a grievous loss,” Clinton added. According to the Associated Press, 16 U.N. officials are dead and another 150 are unaccounted for.
Former President Bill Clinton, who is in New York, is the U.N. special envoy for Haiti.