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The Honolulu Advertiser

BY Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

Posted on: Thursday, January 14, 2010

Clinton cancels trip to Pacific nations

 • 'Unimaginable' devastation

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cut short her trip to the Pacific yesterday and flew directly from Hawai'i to Washington, D.C., to help lead the U.S. aid effort in Haiti.

Clinton spoke with reporters yesterday at the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters at Camp Smith before heading back to Washington.

"I think this is the most severe earthquake to hit Haiti and the Caribbean in the last 250 years," she said.

Her original schedule had her leaving for Papua New Guinea yesterday, then heading to New Zealand on Saturday and Australia on Sunday.

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 yesterday, Obama designated Shah as the coordinator of the U.S. relief effort, which will involve U.S. military ships, planes and personnel.

Clinton said she spoke yesterday with the president of the Dominican Republic, which is adjacent to Haiti, and United Nations officials, as well the foreign ministers of Brazil and France, to help coordinate aid to the devastated Caribbean nation.

"I think you will see an outpouring of support," she said.

About 45,000 American citizens were in Haiti when the 7.0-magnitude 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 is comparable to the Indian Ocean 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.