Several U.S. agencies help Haiti after earthquake

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. A Haitian Red Cross official on Thursday estimated that between 45,000 and 50,000 people may have perished.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 14, 2010

The State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the military will lead the American response to the earthquake in Haiti, President Obama announced Wednesday. But agencies throughout the federal government are taking action or preparing to deploy personnel to the region.

Here's a sampling of the federal response:

-- Department of Homeland Security: Coast Guard helicopters performed reconnaissance flights over Haiti, helping officials conclude Wednesday that the quake's impact was felt mostly in and around Port-au-Prince, the capital. Some helicopters were dispatched from the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba, returning with seriously injured Americans who needed medical care, officials said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement suspended all deportations to Haiti and will continue to closely monitor the situation, a spokesman said. Several lawmakers called on the Obama administration to grant Haitians safe haven through an emergency program that temporarily allows tourists, students and illegal immigrants in the United States to stay amid natural disasters or political upheaval in their home country.

The department's other agencies stand ready to assist, Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

-- Federal Aviation Administration: The agency dispatched at least two inspectors to help assess the condition of airport runways in Port-au-Prince and Cape Haitien. Both airports are open only to private and humanitarian flights, it said.

The air traffic control towers are not operating at either facility, meaning pilots must use visual flight rules and can land only in good weather, spokeswoman Laura Brown said. The airport certification inspectors will check the runway surfaces and lighting, with an eye toward ensuring the airports can support round-the-clock civil relief operations, Brown said.

-- Federal Communications Commission: The FCC issued a temporary waiver allowing public and religious television and radio stations to host on-air fundraising drives for earthquake relief efforts.

"A number of noncommercial broadcasters have asked for permission to raise funds for relief efforts, which we are happy to give," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. "These temporary waivers will help tap the American spirit of generosity in this time of great need to aid Haitian relief efforts."

The agency usually prohibits public broadcasters from on-air fundraising for any organization other than the station itself. The agency issued similar waivers after Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina; the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

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