Obama makes Haiti relief top priority

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U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday said that he has made the relief effort in Haiti the top priority of every government agency, vowing to mobilize "every element" of the United States to help the quake-hit country.

At least 100,000 people may have been killed in the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that made the Caribbean country in ruin on Tuesday. International Federation of the Red Cross said some 3 million people may have been affected by the natural disaster.

Emergency assistance

In a speech made Thursday morning in the White House, President Obama announced a 100-million-dollar emergency assistance for Haiti.

"This will mean more of the life-saving equipment, food, water and medicine that will be needed. This investment will grow over the coming year as we embark on the long-term recovery from this unimaginable tragedy," said the president.

"The losses that have been suffered in Haiti are nothing less than devastating, and responding to a disaster of this magnitude will require every element of our national capacity. ... Haiti must be a top priority for their departments and agencies right now," said Obama.

Meanwhile, the United States has been providing 14,550 tons of food aid to Haiti, as an emergent supply for 1.2 million people for two weeks. The food aid, which includes 7,000 tons of rice, 4,550 tons of corn soy blend and 3,000 tons of vegetable oil, is valued at about 18 million dollars.

According to U.S. Agency for International Development, the food aid will be transported in multiple shipments, with the first shipment leaving in the next few days, and be distributed by the UN World Food Program and private voluntary organizations.

Military reinforcement

Up to 3,500 U.S. Army troops have been mobilized to leave for Haiti to support disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

According to Department of Defense, an initial contingent of 100 82nd Airborne Division troops deployed to Haiti around Thursday noon, another 800 soldiers will arrive in the country on Friday.

Meanwhile, about 2,000 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are preparing for a 90-day deployment in Haiti.

U.S. Southern Command said the Marines will begin loading equipment on USS Bataan, USS Carter Hall and USS Fort McHenry on Friday.

The three amphibious ships will join the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy and the guided-missile frigate USS Underwood for the Haiti earthquake relief operation in Haiti.

Additionally, the hospital ship USNS Comfort has been preparing to get underway.

Medical support

Early on Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the United States has put 12,000 medical personnel on alert for conducting relief effort in the quake-torn Haiti and 300 of them has been sent to the country.

"We have 12,000 medical personnel on alert. Three-hundred of them are on their way today," said Sebelius, adding that U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also dispatch experts to Haiti for monitoring the spread of disease.

"Doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and the other medical personnel in our National Disaster Medical System and U.S. public Health Service are preparing to travel to Haiti to provide immediate medical care to the injured," said Sebelius in an earlier statement on the deadly earthquake.

"Our on-the-ground medical teams will be traveling with medicine, medical supplies, and equipment to help save lives during the critical post-earthquake timeframe," said the top U.S. health official.

According to the Obama administration, the first wave of U.S. rescue and relief effort has been actively conducted on the ground since Wednesday night. Meanwhile, the U.S. army has secured the Port-au-Prince Airport and prepared it to receive the heavy equipment and resources that are on the way.

In his speech made on Thursday morning, Obama encouraged the Haitian people not to give up their spirit and faith to the current hardship.

"To the people of Haiti, we say clearly, and with conviction, you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you. The world stands with you," said the president.

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