President Barack Obama on Wednesday promised to Haiti the "full support" of the U.S. government with rescue efforts following earthquakes that hit the island nation on Tuesday.
While delivering a prepared statement in the White House, the president acknowledged the widespread devastation caused by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake and its crushing impact on Haiti's poor population.
"This tragedy seems especially cruel and incomprehensible," Obama said, acknowledging that Haiti is "a country and people who are no strangers to hardship."
The earthquake hit Haiti on Tuesday afternoon and reports of destroyed homes and hospitals as well as loss of life have started to reach the U.S. So far rescue efforts have been crippled by the impact of the quake and the lack of existing infrastructure.
Obama said that the U.S. military has already conducted overflights to survey the damage and civilian rescue teams are preparing to leave for Haiti starting Wednesday.
The president appointed USAID Director Rajiv Shah as the coordinator of the U.S. relief efforts.
He also said that the administration is working to account for U.S. embassy personnel and directed people who know Americans in Haiti to contact the State Department.
"This is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share," Obama said. "Haitians are our neighbors in the Americas and here at home, so we have to be there for them in their hour of need."