Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 14, 2010


QUESTION: Let’s bring in right now the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for being with us. Obviously, you cancelled the trip to Asia to take care of this crisis. Tell us what you’re doing right now and what the United States Government is doing right now to alleviate the misery to our neighbors to the south of us.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thanks, and good morning. I appreciate the coverage that you all have been providing, because the extent of this crisis is nearly unimaginable. It affects about 3 million people.

The President ordered a swift, coordinated, aggressive response. That’s exactly what we’re doing. Our military has reopened the airport, so it’s now able to take the heavy-bodied planes that are going to be bringing in the assistance that’s required. The Coast Guard has been magnificent. They have evacuated some of our injured Americans. We have a crack search-and-rescue team from Fairfax, Virginia on the ground, one from Miami-Dade, another from LA that should be there shortly. The 82nd Airborne, the Marines are on their way.

So what we’re doing is, first and foremost, search and rescue. We’re reaching out to American citizens. There are about 45,000 of them in Haiti. We are also coordinating with the Haitian Government. It’s been devastated. It doesn’t have communications, which we’re trying to provide them, and also with the United Nations, equally devastated by the collapse of their headquarters.

So we’re on the ground, we’re moving to try to survey the situation so that we know what needs to be done. We’re working to provide law and order, to bring in the heavy equipment, to clear the roads. This requires a lot of expertise. I know that your viewers look at these pictures as I do and your heart just goes out to the people of Haiti. And we’re going to be there for the long term. It’s not just what we do today and tomorrow, but what we’re going to be doing for weeks and months ahead.

QUESTION: In the early days of any crisis like this, Americans looking at the pictures try to put it in perspective. It happened in the early days of 2005 with the tsunami. Here, we’re hearing horrific estimates of possible deaths from some high-ranking Haitian officials, anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000. Do you have any idea just the extent of the damage, and at this point, the fatalities there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Joe, I don’t want to hazard a guess. We know it’s going to be in the tens of thousands, but we don’t know yet the extent of it. We have done some aerial surveying. The area was extremely hard hit, which is the most populated area of Haiti. The construction of buildings were not up to earthquake standards. By contrast, our American Embassy is undamaged. So we are expecting a great number of fatalities and serious injuries.

When you think about how to break this down, our new USAID Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, who has been on the job less than a week and is doing a tremendous job as he pulls all of this together, we have to think about everything from how you approach a collapsed building and how you try to get water and food to people who are in areas that are not approachable. Do you air drop it; how do you get it there; how do you communicate with people so they know where to go to get help. Most people are without shelter. They’re afraid to go back into their homes. There have been some very serious aftershocks.

So the extent of the planning that has to go into this to make sure that we do the maximum good possible is something that the United States is taking the lead in.

QUESTION: And the planning obviously starts with dealing with those in charge. We have the government buildings there that are in ruins, and the president with no place to live. Who is in charge of coordinating aid? Have you ascertained that? Are you working with a structure of leadership there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you’re so right, because the Government of Haiti is not able to function. The president thankfully is alive, but without much government to direct. We’re working closely with him. It is a democratic government. The Haitian Government has to be endowed with authority. But obviously, they need the United States and the United Nations, which is rushing in replacements for the personnel that have been unfortunately lost.

So we will be working closely with the Haitian Government and with the UN. This is going to be a full court press. I spoke with a number of my international colleagues yesterday. They are sending both tangible assistance, like food and water, as well as making cash donations. The United States will be organizing and coordinating a lot of that. We’ve got a 24-hour earthquake task force that is up and running with every part of our government represented and coordinating with other governments, as well as the United Nations and NGOs, which are very active in Haiti.

And I wanted to give you both a number, because people are trying to get information about their loved ones or their friends. It’s 1-888-407-4747. Please call that if you have someone missing. I got a personal call from a friend who had a friend whose niece is on a medical missionary mission in Haiti. They haven’t heard from her. That’s the kind of thing that this number is set up to help respond to.

And similarly, because of the generosity of the American people, the State Department set up a text messaging contribution system. We’ve already raised $3 million for the Red Cross. If you wish to contribute, text the word Haiti, H-a-i-t-i, to 90999, and your cell phone will be charged $10 to help.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: That is a great system there that can generate a lot of support. Secretary Clinton, thank you so much and best of luck to you trying to deal with this disaster of biblical proportions.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thanks to both of you. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. We greatly appreciate it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks.

# # #



PRN: 2010/049