Nations team up to aid Haiti
WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are laying out a massive military response to the Haiti earthquake, saying that ships, helicopters, transport planes and a 2,000-member Marine unit are either on the way or likely to begin moving soon.
And governments around the world are gearing up to join in a major humanitarian effort in the wake of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated the desperately poor Caribbean nation. Many major U.S. businesses have already pledged donations to aid the quake victims.
Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of U.S. Southern Command, said yesterday that one of the U.S. Navy's large amphibious ships will likely head to Haiti with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard. Fraser said other U.S. military forces are on alert, including a brigade, which includes about 3,500 troops.
Fraser said during a news conference with other U.S. officials that the Pentagon is "seriously looking at" sending thousands of Marines to assist with disaster relief efforts and security in Haiti.
The dispatched troops would aim to keep the peace in the event of post-disaster unrest as part of a larger international effort overseen by the United Nations, whose peacekeeping operation headquarters was destroyed in the quake. About 100 U.N. personnel are believed to be trapped in the ruins of the building.
President Obama promised yesterday to mount an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort to help the people of Haiti overcome a "cruel and incomprehensible" tragedy."
The president said the relief effort is gearing up even as the U.S. government is working to account for Americans who were on the island nation when the disaster struck late Tuesday afternoon.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cut short an extended trip to the Asia-Pacific region to deal with the earthquake crisis in Haiti, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates called off a planned trip to Australia where he and Clinton were to attend an annual summit.
Clinton told reporters in Honolulu yesterday that she would return to Washington to help oversee U.S. relief efforts instead of continuing on to Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand as she had initially planned.
The initial contingent of 2,000 Marines could be deployed to the quake-ravaged country within the next few days to either help with emergency aid distribution or enforce law in conjunction with U.N. peacekeepers already there, Fraser said.
The first C-130 plane carrying part of a U.S. military assessment team arrived in Haiti, the U.S. Southern Command said. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was expected to arrive off the coast today and more U.S. Navy ships were under way.
"We don't know precisely what the situation is on the ground," Fraser said. "So we're leaning forward to provide as much capability as quickly as we can to respond to whatever the need is when we get there."
Late yesterday, the Navy said the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan had been ordered to sail as soon as possible with a 2,000-member Marine unit to join other warships headed to the Caribbean nation.
The Air Force is sending people to provide air traffic control and operations at the Port-au-Prince airport.
Governments from China to Venezuela rushed to help earthquake relief with aid and rescue workers.
The Irish telecommunications company Digicel said it would donate $5 million to aid agencies and help repair Haiti's damaged phone network.
Doctors Without Borders said it had treated hundreds in tents near where its Martissant health center was damaged. The injuries include broken bones and some severe burns from domestic gas containers that exploded in collapsed buildings. It said hundreds more Haitians were being treated in tents elsewhere.
Canada planned an initial donation of $4.8 million, with more aid to flow after reports to Ottawa by a military reconnaissance team.
China pitched in with a pledge of $1 million, while the European Commission has approved $4.37 million. European Union member states Spain, the Netherlands and Germany promised millions more.
PLEDGES FLOW IN
Bank of America Corp. will give $1 million and the Walmart Foundation $600,000 to help victims of the earthquake, American Airlines is flying relief supplies to the country, and grocers and other companies are donating funds and their products to the effort.
Coca-Cola Co.'s charitable arm is donating $1 million, and it is donating bottled water. The UPS Foundation is giving $500,000 in cash and up to $500,000 in shipping services.
Other pledges include $100,000 from the Publix Super Markets Charities, $25,000 from the Kraft Foods Foundation and 100,000 pairs of shoes from Soles4Souls Inc., a charity in Nashville, Tenn.
Three American Eagle aircraft arrived in devastated Port-au-Prince yesterday with 30,000 pounds of water, food and other nonperishable goods. Three relief missions also are planned today and three more tomorrow.The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.