Obama unveils 100 million dollars of Haiti aid

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 15 2010 12:12 AM | Updated as of Jan 15 2010 08:17 AM

WASHINGTON DC, United States - President Barack Obama promised Haitians Thursday they would not be forsaken or forgotten, offering 100 million dollars in immediate earthquake aid and every element of US power to help them.

In a White House statement, he said the human toll from the 7.0 quake, in which tens of thousands are feared dead, was "nothing less than devastating."

In remarks he addressed directly to the people of Haiti, Obama said "few in the world have endured the hardships that you have known."

"Long before this tragedy, daily life itself was often a bitter struggle. And after suffering so much for so long, to face this new horror must cause some to look up and ask, have we somehow been forsaken?

"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."

Obama offered "every element of our national capacity, our diplomacy, and development assistance, the power of our military and most importantly, the compassion of our country" following the disaster.

"This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership," Obama said, flanked by key cabinet members including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

"We stand in solidarity with our neighbors to the south, knowing that but for the grace of God there we go."

The president announced an immediate investment of 100 million dollars to support relief efforts, and to buy life-saving equipment, food, water and medicine.

"This investment will grow over the coming year as we embark on the long-term recovery from this unimaginable tragedy."

Obama reported that the first waves of US relief experts were on the ground, had secured the airport and had scouted priority areas for assistance, ahead of a planned round-the-clock relief effort.

He said elements of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division would arrive later on Thursday, and a marine unit, aircraft carrier and a naval hospital ship were on the way.

But he warned roads in Haiti were impassable, communications rudimentary, and that aftershocks were still rattling the devastated and impoverished Caribbean nation.

Before the statement, Obama met in the Oval Office with several members of his national security team for a briefing on the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and the US fight against Al-Qaeda, an official said.