HAITI LIVE BLOG DAY 3: Obama Taps George W. Bush, Bill Clinton to Lead US Relief Efforts

Here’s the link to Wednesday’s live blog.

5:26 pm PDT: We couldn’t leave for the day without first reporting on this development.

The New York Times reported this afternoon that in addition to Bill Clinton, President Obama tapped George W. Bush, the man whose administration seriously botched the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, to lead this country’s relief efforts to Haiti.

According to the Times:

The partnership is expected to be announced by the White House in the coming days, after officials have a better handle on the full scope of the devastation. Mr. Obama called Mr. Bush on Wednesday, aides to both men said, and Mr. Bush agreed to do whatever he could to help.

In a joint statement, the former presidents said:

We are deeply saddened by the devastation and suffering caused by the recent earthquake in Haiti. The people of Haiti are in our thoughts and prayers.

We are pleased to accept President Obama’s request to lead private sector fundraising efforts. In the days and weeks ahead, we will draw attention to the many ways American citizens and businesses can help meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people.

Americans have a long history of showing compassion and generosity in the wake of tragedy. We thank the American people for rallying to help our neighbors in the Caribbean in their hour of suffering – and throughout the journey of rebuilding their nation.

The Times noted that the partnership between Clinton and Bush would be similar to one that Clinton had with George H.W Bush five years ago, when the two presidents worked together on relief efforts in the aftermath of the tsunami that devastated coastal countries.

5:06 pm PDT: We’re wrapping up our coverage for the day. But please continue to check our Twitter feed to the right for breaking developments.

4:55 pm PDT: According to Australia’s ABC News (not affiliated with the US news network), earthquake survivors are blocking the roads with corpses in Port-au-Prince to protest the delay in receiving emergency aid.

TIME magazine photographer Shaul Schwarz said he saw at least two downtown roadblocks formed with bodies of earthquake victims and rocks.

“They are starting to block the roads with bodies; it’s getting ugly out there,” he said. “People are fed up with getting no help.”

Aid has not yet reached the shell-shocked residents of Port-au-Prince, who are wandering their broken streets searching for water, food and medical help as night falls for the third time since the earthquake.

Earlier today, air traffic into Haiti was halted because of a lack of jet fuel and no room for planes to land, according to the FAA.

Flights were expected to resume at 3 pm PDT. But we have not received confirmation about this. The first 72 hours are the most crucial in a natural disaster in terms of trying to locate and rescue survivors.

4:39 pm PDT: Heart-wrenching news. The Independent reports that truckloads of dead bodies began arriving at a morgue in Port-au-Prince. Some of the deceased are children, whose lifeless bodies were found lying next to schools.

They came stacked high in pick-up trucks, they came in piles in police vehicles, and when the mortuary at the hospital could take no more, police and their helpers simply began piling them up outside. Guy Laroche, the hospital director, said he had no idea how many more would come, but he had already received about 1,500.

They were thrown together like commodities with nothing like a shroud or a covering garment, as the Haitian Red Cross had run out of body bags. The Red Cross International Committee said 3,000 more were on the way, but it will take a far bigger number than that to accommodate Port-au-Prince’s dead – 40,000? 50,000? – with countless more corpses, stiff and starting to decompose, still visible or half-visible yesterday under the rubble of the wrecked city, or piled into vehicles, or lying scattered by the side of the road.

They ranged from tiny children next to schools, to women in rubble-strewn streets with stunned expressions frozen on their faces. Some were covered by a white cloth or a tarpaulin. Some were covered by nothing, in the sweltering tropical heat. “Things are usually not as bad as the news says. Sincerely, this is worse,” a Port-au-Prince resident posted on Twitter. “Dead bodies everywhere. City starting to smell like rotting flesh.”

4:15 pm PDT: The Wall Street Journal reported that President Obama has been tapped to write the cover story on the earthquake for the next issue of Newsweek due to hit newsstands Monday.

Newsweek was readying a story about the Google-China row when the earthquake hit. Editor Jon Meacham scrapped his plans and hit the phones in search of the highest authority he could find to weigh in, according to a person familiar with the matter. He reached David Axelrod, senior adviser to Obama, who asked his boss if he was game.

2:59 pm PDT: We’re taking a break to cover other news developments. But be sure to check out our live Twitter feed over to the right. Just move your mouse over a tweet to keep it from scrolling. We’ll be back shortly.

2:43 pm PDT: Google Earth on Wednesday released two high-quality images of areas affected by the earthquake.

The imagery is remarkably sharp, and shows some amazing scenes such a a soccer field turned into a make-shift camp and smoke continuing to billow out of some buildings.

The images, according to Dave Wetley, a professor in the geology department at Durham University in England, “contains the first good news to emerge from the area. This is that on this imagery at least the number of landslides appears to be small and, perhaps most interestingly, there are few signs of slope failures under the shanty towns on the edge of the urban areas, which we feared could be the cause of substantial loss of life.”

Wetley noted on his blog that the images are of Carrefour and Port-au-Prince areas, not the country’s rural upland region.

2:17 pm PDT: Earlier today, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said televangelist Pat Robertson’s comments Wednesday that Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake because the country made a “pact with the devil” in order to win freedom from slavery was “utterly stupid.”

“It never ceases to amaze that in times of amazing human suffering somebody says something that could be so utterly stupid,” Gibbs said.” But it, like clockwork, happens with some regularity.”

2:03 pm PDT: From UNDispatch’s Twitter feed, here are some highlights of a news briefing with the UN’s Humanitarian Chief:

UN Humanitarian Chief: It will be days or weeks until we have reliable numbers of the dead and injured.

UN Humanitarian Chief: very hard to locate national staff and see how many Haitian UN staff were affected.

UN Humanitarian Chief: Access to the sea port is partially blocked by debris. And the airport will become clogged very quickly.

UN Humanitarian chief: flash appeal of “hundreds of millions of dollars” will probably launch tomorrow.

1:05 pm PDT: The “stench of death” met rescue workers in Port-au-Prince Thursday, CNN reported, as dead bodies lined the streets and funeral homes were overwhelmed with people who are trying to bury their dead. Lines were half-a-block long.

“The vast majority of downtown Port-au-Prince is a mess of dead bodies, rebar and concrete,” said Eric Marrapodi, one of a team of CNN journalists in Haiti.

1:01 pm PDT: Some additional information from the State Department that may be of importance to some readers:

The US Embassy in Port-au-Prince has activated its early warning system to connect with approximately 45,000 US citizens who are in Haiti. Americans in Haiti can call the Embassy’s Consular Task Force at 509-2229-8942, 509-2229-8089, 509-2229-8322, or 509-2229-8672. Americans are urged to contact the Embassy via email at [email protected] to request assistance.

People in the US or Canada with information or inquiries about US citizens in Haiti may reach the Haiti Task Force at 888-407-4747. Outside of the US and Canada, call 202-501-4444. You may email inquiries to: [email protected]

The emergency hotline for family members of United Nations staff in Haiti is 212-963-4139.

12:54 pm PDT: Just a reminder for readers who are following developments in Haiti via Twitter to follow these people, who have been providing must-read reports from ground zero, and subscribe to these hashtags.








Additionally, CNN continues to dominate in covering the aftermath.

The UN’s website has regular updates about international recovery efforts and breaking developments, including video reports. The UN was hit particularly hard in Tuesday’s quake. Seventeen UN workers were reported killed, 56 are injured and about 150 are still unaccounted for.

UN Dispatch is another go to website for up to the minute news about the devastation.

Finally, the State Department has regular briefings throughout the day about US recovery efforts.

12:45 pm PDT: The State Department has put together an earthquake page on its website, which contains information about the welfare of US citizens in Haiti as well as important contact information and travel alerts.

12:26 pm PDT: The United Nations confirmed that 36 Haitian UN Mission workers were killed in the earthquake. when the UN building housing the employees collapsed.

Among the dead was mission chief Hedi Annabi, according to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. He added that everyone in the building was either killed or is missing.

12:03 pm PDT: Apologies for the lag time in posting updates. We were tending to other news.

The International Federation of the Red Cross is now estimating that between 45,000 and 50,000 people died in Tuesday’s earthquake. Jean-Luc Martinage, a spokesman for the organization, said the estimates are based on estimates of the group’s volunteers, who are spread out throughout the country.

11:13 am PDT: I just received word from the State Department that the FAA is halting all air traffic to Haiti because there isn’t any fuel nor room for planes.

10:15 am PDT: President Obama said Thursday morning that he has earmarked $100 million to support recovery and relief efforts in Haiti following Tuesday’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake that has left the country in ruins.

“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,” Obama said. “This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership.

“We have no higher priority than the safety of American citizens, And you should know that we will not rest until we account for our fellow Americans in harm’s way.”

There are an estimated 45,000 US citizens living in Haiti.

Obama said relief efforts will take time due to the devastation caused by the earthquake. He said Haiti’s port is seriously damaged.

“Even as we move as quickly as possible, it will take hours — and in many cases days — to get all of our people and resources on the ground,” Obama said.

7:45 am PDT: The BBC has a disturbing first hand video report from a hospital in Port-au-Prince where, last night, injured people waiting for treatment slept amongst dead bodies.

7:37 am PDT: The Washington Post reporting that the Haitian Red Cross estimates between 45,000 and 50,000 deaths.

7:12 am PDT: CNN reports that, beginning today, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne division will deploy from North Carolina to Haiti. 3,500 paratroopers are expected to deploy, with the first arriving in Haiti this evening.

7:04 am PDT: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reported on MSNBC that today the US is sending 300 medical personnel to Haiti. 12,000 more medical workers are being placed on alert to possibly deploy to Haiti soon.