Clinton: Too soon to estimate casualties in Haiti

Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 7:50 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 7:50 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday the United States and the world must do everything possible to help Haiti surmount its "cycle of hope and despair."

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discusses the earthquake in Haiti and announces she is canceling the remainder of her Pacific trip during a news conference at U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010.

Lucy Pemoni/ The Associated Press

Appearing on morning network news shows after cutting short an overseas trip, 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."

President Barack Obama, who earlier announced a wide-ranging U.S. assistance and relief effort, planned another public statement from the White House later Thursday.

Clinton noted that the small Caribbean country was still recovering, with help from Washington, the United Nations and other countries, from the damage wrought by last year's storms, saying a key challenge now is to "get people back into some semblance of normalcy." She called Haitians "resilient people" and said no one is giving up on them.

Before the earthquake, Clinton said, "We had a full government effort under the Obama administration to really help the people, and we were making progress. ... This is devastating on every level." She said the United States will do "everything we can to help this country rebuild."

In another interview, Clinton said, "We are doing all we can to figure out how to attack the devastation all around and this is going to be a long-term effort," from saving lives and providing food, water and medical supplies, to beginning the reconstruction process.

"The 82nd Airborne is getting to Haiti today, the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson will be on the horizon soon, the Coast Guard has performed magnificently in helping to evacuate the injured, particularly American citizens," she said.

"We have a full court press going on here at the president's direction," Clinton added. "This is a devastating catastrophe, just to figure out what steps to take so we don't make the situation worse ... This is incredibly complex work. We have some of the best people in the world from the United States down there and we're just going to do everything we can to be helpful."

Clinton advised people worried about relatives living in Haiti to call a special information number at the State Department — 1 888 407 4747, which is the operations center there.

Of the damage in Haiti, Clinton said "the depth and scope is unimaginable."

She appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America," CBS's "The Early Show," and NBC's "Today" show.

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