Biden authorizes US response to Haiti after earthquake
President Biden has authorized U.S. support for Haiti in the aftermath of a massive earthquake Saturday that caused extensive damage and killed dozens of people, with the number of fatalities expected to grow.
A White House official said that Biden and Vice President Harris received a briefing on the earthquake from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The official added that the president authorized U.S. assistance to Haiti, overseen by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power.
No additional information was provided beyond the appointment of Power, who under the Obama administration served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
When reached for comment by The Hill, the White House said it had no further details to provide. The Hill has reached out to USAID for comment.
This morning, the President and Vice President held a video conference with the national security team to discuss the ongoing efforts to draw down our civilian footprint in Afghanistan. In addition, the President and Vice President were briefed on the earthquake in Haiti. pic.twitter.com/7BKSdJ8OKo
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 14, 2021
Both The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that Haiti’s civil protection agency said at least 29 people have been confirmed dead following Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which shook the capital of Port-au-Prince and other areas of the Caribbean nation.
The Haitian government said among those confirmed dead so far was a powerful local politician who had been in a hotel he owned that collapsed Saturday morning.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was sworn into the position last month following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, tweeted Saturday afternoon that the government would be declaring a state of emergency following the quake.
“We will make the necessary arrangements to assist people affected by the earthquake in the Southern Peninsula,” he wrote, according to an English translation of the French tweet. “We must show a lot of solidarity with regard to the emergency.”
“The government will declare a state of emergency,” he added. “We will act quickly.”
Nous allons prendre les dispositions nécessaires pr assister les personnes touchées par le séisme dans la Presqu’île du Sud. Nous devons faire montre de beaucoup de solidarité par rapport à l’urgence. Le gouvernement va déclarer l’état d’urgence. Nous allons agir dans la célérité
— Dr Ariel Henry (@DrArielHenry) August 14, 2021
The U.S. Geological Survey previously said that due to the severity of the quake Saturday, the number of fatalities could reach into the thousands, though officials are still working to examine the true impact of the natural disaster.
Videos and photos circulated on social media showed a chaotic scene as local residents ran through the streets and searched the rubble of collapsed buildings for people and personal items that may still be lost.
The disaster comes as Haiti has still not fully recovered from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the country in 2010, with roughly $13 billion in aid given to the country in the past decade failing to reach much of the population in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The country is also plagued by widespread corruption, with Moïse’s assassination and the planning behind it still clouded in mystery, though authorities have already detained 44 people in connection with the attack.
Updated at 3:38 p.m.