printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Remarks by Philip J. Crowley and Gordon Duguid on the Earthquake in Haiti

January 12, 2010



MR. CROWLEY: Just to run through some very quick things, we have started our disaster response efforts here at the Department of State, convened a conference call just about an hour ago, and talking to folks in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in the region just to first of all get a foundation as to what they’ve seen and what they understand the situation to be.

The Secretary, right before she started her speech, reached out to our DCM in Port-auuu-Prince David Lindwall, L-i-n-d-w-a-l-l, and he’s provided – he’s at the Embassy and has provided most of the basic information. The Embassy itself is okay. David was en route home when the earthquake happened, so he’s had a chance to see a little bit of the current situation in Port-au-Prince. Obviously, as you are reporting, there is significant damage. A number of structures have collapsed. He has seen walls down, a number of people injured and killed. Can’t put a magnitude on it at this point.

At the Embassy, we have started the Warden process to reach out to our Embassy community and to look after the safety of our personnel. The Embassy has already reached out to the Government of Haiti, has not connected yet but we hope to do that very soon to begin the process of assessing what Haiti needs and flowing assistance to Port-au-Prince.

Always useful to remind – as you know, having been there, it is the poorest country in the hemisphere and clearly will need an enormous amount of assistance. And as the President said, we are standing by to do whatever we can.

On the call also was USAID and --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: No, no, just – in particular, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, OFDA. They will be assembling a DART team that will move as rapidly as possible. Obviously, there are lots of questions. One of the questions will be at first light what’s the condition of the airport and at what point can we begin to put teams on airplanes and get them down there. OFDA has alerted search-and-rescue teams such as the Fairfax search-and-rescue team, a counterpart in Los Angeles. That will be among the immediate requirements to get on the ground and see what we can do about --

QUESTION: What’s it called in Los Angeles?

MR. CROWLEY: Los Angeles search-and-rescue.

QUESTION: Fairfax, Virginia?

MR. CROWLEY: One of – yeah, Fairfax, Virginia. These are teams that work with USAID during disasters anywhere in the world.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll work very closely with the Pentagon in terms of flowing significant assistance and manpower to Haiti in the coming days.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have some kind of task force here set up at the State Department yet?

MR. CROWLEY: We have put – our task force is convening on the seventh floor and will be working on this issue through the night.

QUESTION: That’s all relevant agencies like CA, Western Hemisphere, USAID?

MR. CROWLEY: Correct. And you’re also marshalling – for example, you’ve got Haiti – our Embassy in the Dominican Republic reported it has not been affected by this, so we’re looking to see – on the call tonight was the liaison people from Southern Command. So not only is it getting the proper disaster declarations in place so that we can begin to flow assistance as soon as Port-au-Prince is able to receive it.

QUESTION: Has the ambassador already authorized his emergency fund, do you know? You know, like some petty cash --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, he does. He does.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) authorization.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, that’s automatic.

QUESTION: So it would be fair to say that he did?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have some kind of hotline, you know whereabouts, welfare hotline set up at the State Department as you often do in these type of cases so that people with family in Haiti can call?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure we are in the process of --

QUESTION: If you could get that for us.

MR. DUGUID: As (inaudible) we’ll announce. It’s important to note that the landline communications to the Embassy in Haiti are down. So if people are trying to get through, it’s not because, you know, that so many people are trying to get through --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I mean, they reported that there is good communications with the Embassy back here to Washington.

QUESTION: But Americans can’t get in touch with --

MR. CROWLEY: And everyone’s got a cell phone and they reported the cell phone service as spotty, for understandable reasons. You might have towers available in certain places and not other places.

QUESTION: So, basically, it’s hard for the Embassy to even get in touch with Americans to know they’re okay?

MR. CROWLEY: That – this is a process that’s going to take some time because of not only the difficulty of moving around the city but also the communications is uncertain, depending on where they are.

QUESTION: How do you communicate with – if the communications between here and the Embassy is good, how do you communicate? Dedicated lines?

MR. DUGUID: Tie lines.

QUESTION: Tie lines?

MR. DUGUID: (Inaudible) that don’t rely on the Haitian system.

QUESTION: Okay. All right, great. How can we – when can we expect some kind of update?

MR. CROWLEY: We’re working on that now. I think we’re hoping sometime tomorrow morning, maybe late morning, to have a briefing that focuses on USAID and the process through which we’re assembling teams and assets to be able to deploy rapidly to Haiti. But I would expect that we’ll do updates one, two, or three times during the course of tomorrow.

****

QUESTION: Okay. So just to review the part I missed when I was making sure that Hillary had started talking, heavy damage to what, the palace and what else?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s – at the Embassy in Port-au-Prince, that’s what they’ve heard. They’ve heard reports of heavy damage to the palace, heavy damage to --

QUESTION: What about damage to the Embassy

MR. CROWLEY: The Embassy is okay.

QUESTION: He said no.

QUESTION: The Embassy is fine.

MR. CROWLEY: The Embassy is okay.

QUESTION: So heavy damage to the palace and what else?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s what they’ve heard. They – I can’t say that we’ve had a firsthand look at that, but we have reached out to the Haitian Government. We haven’t made contact with them at a high level yet. That may be one of the reasons --

QUESTION: Any other structures that are known to have been (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: They’re hearing and trying – there were some people in the city when the earthquake first happened. They reported structures down. They reported a lot of walls down. They did see a number of bodies in the street and on the sidewalk that had been hit by debris. So clearly, there’s going to be serious loss of life in this. But in terms of magnitude, our people in Haiti are literally in the dark. And now the people at the Embassy actually – they’ve got generators there, so our Embassy has to be able to function, but their ability to really see what’s happened outside, I’m sure they will be – they’re reaching out to their contacts through the course of the evening trying to get that kind of damage assessment so we begin to understand how to flow assistance to Haiti.

QUESTION: And the bodies in the street that were seen were seen by Embassy officials or reported to by Embassy officials?

MR. CROWLEY: No, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Okay. But no knowledge of any Embassy people themselves being victims?

MR. CROWLEY: No. At this point, they’re reaching out through the Warden system. I mean, it’s going to take some time --

QUESTION: Well, but you’re saying, like, that you’re reaching out to the Americans through the Warden system. Have all Embassy personnel been accounted for?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: Okay. But that’s only because the landlines and communications --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. In other posts in the region or in the DR, their initial assessment is all their people are safe. But in Haiti, they have no way of knowing yet, but they’ve begun the process to try to figure out – because at the time of day that the earthquake hit, some people were still at the Embassy. We did have a housing complex across the street. That housing complex is fairly newly built and seemed to come through it okay. What they reported was with the shaking there, things came off the wall, but the structure in and around the Embassy is sound. But some people were well on their way home or in fact had gotten home, and so we can’t say at this point what the status of all our people are.

QUESTION: All right, thank you.

MR. DUGUID: The Warden system (inaudible) for lack of communications, but that slows down the process greatly. And it all depends as well on the number of Americans who have registered with the Embassy on how widespread the communications network is.

QUESTION: Okay. And the Warden system deals only – it just deals with citizens and with staff?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean, anyone who’s registered with us, we will try to determine their situation and their whereabouts.

# # #