WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will fly to Haiti on Saturday to get a firsthand look at the earthquake relief effort as well as to help evacuate some Americans caught up in the disaster.
Clinton, who cut short a trip to the Asia-Pacific region after Tuesday’s quake, said on Friday she and U.S. Agency for International Development Director Rajiv Shah would meet Haitian President Rene Preval as well as U.S. relief workers.
“We will also be conveying very directly and personally to the Haitian people our long-term unwavering support, solidarity and sympathies,” Clinton told a news briefing.
Haitian authorities said on Friday they believed 140,000 people died in the quake that devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation and that three-quarters of the capital, Port-au-Prince, would need to be rebuilt.
Clinton said details of her trip were being worked out but that she planned to bring relief supplies as well as helping to evacuate some Americans.
“I will be bringing out some American citizens who are waiting for evacuation, so there are some very tangible reasons for this,” Clinton said.
She said every effort would be made not to allow her visit to interfere with the relief effort.
“I will not be leaving the airport area, so I will not be using assets like automobiles that should be better used for transporting rescue workers or medical personnel,” she said.
Clinton said the trip would give her and her team a firsthand look at how the relief effort was unfolding, which she could then convey to other world leaders, adding the United States backed the idea of a donor conference at some point in the future.
“I’ve spoken to a number of foreign ministers and heads of state who are asking questions about how things are operating and what they can do to contribute. It just gives you a level of credibility,” Clinton said of the trip.
She said that while U.N. peacekeepers appeared to be doing their best to control the security situation, conditions on the ground remained “tough” and demanded swift action.
“We’re aware that there are all kinds of potential problems on the horizon,” Clinton said.
“It’s a race against time,” she added. “Everybody is pushing as hard as they can.”
Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Peter Cooney