News / Americas

US First Lady Visits Quake-Struck Haiti

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama made a brief visit to Haiti Tuesday, three months after an earthquake devastated the Caribbean country.

Mrs. Obama arrived in Port-au-Prince Tuesday with Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, in a previously unannounced visit. The first lady is on her way to Mexico as part of her first official trip abroad without her husband.

The White House says the visit is designed to underscore the U.S. commitment to help Haiti recover and rebuild from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12 that killed at least 217,000 people and left more than a million others homeless.

Shortly after arriving, the two women took a helicopter tour of Port-au-Prince, where buildings are in ruins and many earthquake survivors live in sprawling tent cities. Mrs. Obama called the devastation she saw "powerful."

The women met with Haitian President Rene Preval and his wife, Elisabeth Delatour Preval.

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden toured a child care program known as a "child safe space" that teaches art therapy and provides food for several hundred children.

The trip comes as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says it is increasing its efforts to find shelter for the homeless before Haiti's rainy season hits its peak in mid-May.

Red Cross officials in Geneva say they have provided emergency shelter for 80 percent of Haiti's 1.5 million homeless people. Their goal is to shelter all the homeless by May 1.

Later Tuesday, Mrs. Obama travels on to Mexico City for a three-day visit designed to advance U.S. ties with Mexico.  She will meet with Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala de Calderon to discuss education and economic advancement.

The White House says she also will use her trip to engage with young people in Mexico, meeting with elementary school pupils and university students.

The first lady is scheduled to return to the U.S. Thursday.

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