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Obama orders rapid mobilization of U.S. rescue, relief efforts for Haiti

Humanitarian efforts have begun across the world in response to the devastating earthquake that struck near Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince late Tuesday, Jan. 12. U.N. officials say an accurate count of those killed in the 7.0-magnitude quake might never be known.

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"We've received a number of reports of injured U.S. citizens," Cheryl D. Mills, the chief of staff at the State Department, told reporters. Almost all of the embassy workers have been accounted for, she said.

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Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the overall coordinator of U.S. relief efforts for Haiti, said a 15-member Disaster Assistance Response Team was to be in the country by Wednesday evening to conduct surveillance that can guide governmental and private relief efforts.

Those teams will be quickly followed by two 72-member urban rescue units from Fairfax County and Los Angeles. Another crisis team from Miami also mobilized Wednesday, to be followed by more search-and-rescue operations put together by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Shah said.

Military officials at the U.S. Southern Command said they began moving ships toward Haiti as they braced for a long recovery.

Officials ordered the hospital ship USNS Comfort -- which aided Haiti after hurricanes struck Port-au-Prince two years ago -- to dock off the coast and assist the sick and wounded. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, based at Norfolk, is scheduled to arrive in Haiti on Thursday afternoon, said Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, the head of Southern Command.

Fraser said the carrier has less than its full complement of sailors, Marines and equipment, but it will take on helicopters and provisions as it heads south.

The Navy also ordered the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan to Haiti with about 2,000 Marines to help the country maintain security.

Military officials said their first mission will be setting up a temporary air traffic control system to replace the damaged tower at the nation's airport. Coast Guard operations were focused on establishing broad sea-lift capacity at Port-au-Prince's seaport.

Four Coast Guard C-130 aircraft will be made available to State Department workers and others for logistical needs, including evacuations, Watson said. The service was also prepared to move two more cutters, the Tahoma from Guantanamo Bay, and the Vigorous, a three-day trip from South Florida, to the area.

White House officials warned against people or groups trying to enter the country in an effort to lend a hand. Given the fluid situation in Haiti, it is not "helpful to have massive waves of uncoordinated relief arriving," White House official Patrick Gaspard -- the most prominent Haitian American in the Obama administration -- said in a conference call with organizations.


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