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Obama promises all-out response to 'incomprehensible' Haiti tragedy

President Barack Obama promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort Wednesday to help Haiti overcome a “cruel and incomprehensible” tragedy, the ruinous earthquake that ravaged the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The president said the relief effort is gearing up even as the U.S. government works to account for Americans who were on the island nation when the disaster struck late Tuesday afternoon.

Obama also said he has named U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Rajiv Shah to coordinate American efforts, and the president called upon all nations to join in helping stricken Haitians.

Obama spoke Wednesday in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room.

The president, who has been involved in ensuring a quick response since Tuesday night, said one of the government’s top priorities is to quickly locate U.S. Embassy employees and their families, as well as all other American citizens living and working in Haiti. He urged Americans trying to locate family members to contact the State Department at 1-888-407-4747.

Obama sought to show a swift and united disaster response with the United States as an assertive leader, but he said the effort must be an international one.

“We are reminded of the common humanity that we all share,” Obama said, with Vice President Joe Biden at his side during the brief statement.

The president outlined a series of steps to help the Haitian people and said the U.S. commitment to its hemispheric neighbor will be unwavering.

“We have to be there for them in their hour of need,” the president said.

The White House said Obama had spoken with Shah shortly before making the statement and “underscored that he expects an aggressive and highly coordinated relief effort.”

Obama encouraged Americans who want to help to go to www.whitehouse.gov to find options for contributing to the aid effort.

>>PHOTOS: Chaos and tragedy as Haiti hit by 7.0 earthquake


HOW TO HELP

* You can help immediately by texting "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts.

* Wyclef Jean, a rapper and hip-hop artist from Haiti, urged people to text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 toward earthquake relief. Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement inspiring change in Haiti through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment, according to its Web site.

* The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747.

* You can also go online to organizations such as the Red Cross and MercyCorps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.

Other Web sites accepting donations include:

-Haitian Health Foundation
-Hope for Haiti
-UNICEF
-International Medical Corps
-Beyond Borders
-AmeriCares

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