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Haiti earthquake: Clinton says it's too early to make a firm estimate of the number of deaths

January 14, 2010 |  5:22 am

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discusses the earthquake in Haiti during a news conference Wednesday.

Reporting from Washington -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, maintaining that "the next 24 hours is critical" to saving victims of the Haitian earthquake, says American forces are moving in as swiftly as possible.

"It’s a devastating situation," she said today in an appearance on CNN. "But we’ve got a very coordinated, aggressive response going on. We’ve sent some of our crack search and rescue teams in."

"We’re going to be there for the long term," Clinton said in another appearance on MSNBC. "This is going to be a full-court press."

The State Department already has raised $3 million for the Red Cross with a text-messaging line for $10 donations, Clinton said today. People can text "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10.

It is too early to offer a reliable estimate of the extent of casualties in Haiti, Clinton said.

"I don’t want to hazard a guess," she said on MSNBC. "We know it's going to be in the tens of thousands."

Clinton, who cut short her own Pacific tour this week to return to the State Department today, said the U.S. is supplying a communications system and working with the United Nations, "which was equally devastated.... We’re going to support them as they reestablish authority."

The Coast Guard's response has been "unbelievable," Clinton said in the CNN interview. "There is an enormous amount of work going on... But I think we have a long way ahead of us.

"The next 24 hours is critical to save those who can be saved," she said on CNN. "But then we have a long way ahead of us to deal with the loss of life and infrastructure."

The U.S. is sending in medical personnel. An aircraft carrier is on the way. The U.S. is sending 2,000 Marines to work with international peacekeepers who have served as the security force in the absence of an army.

"This is a country that has suffered so many blows. Last year it was four hurricanes, this year an earthquake," Clinton said. "In the wake of disasters like this, people do get desperate.... We’re moving as quickly as we can go."

The State Department has a toll-free telephone hotline for people looking for information about relatives: 888-407-4747.

-- Mark Silva

Haiti photos
Photo gallery: Earthquake hits Haiti | Twitter: Reports from Haiti | Resources: How to help

Top photo: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discusses the earthquake in Haiti during a news conference Wednesday. Credit: Lucy Pemoni / Associated Press

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