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Former President Clinton: Haiti Great Humanitarian Emergency for Region

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the United Nations special envoy for Haiti, says the earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation is one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas.

Writing in The Washington Post newspaper, Mr. Clinton says Haiti immediately needs food, water, shelter and basic medical supplies.

But once the current emergency passes, Mr. Clinton says the work of recovery and reconstruction will remain. He says plans for long-term development in Haiti by the Haitian government, neighboring countries and international agencies cannot be abandoned.

U.S. President Barack Obama promised Haiti the full support of the U.S. in rescuing people and delivering humanitarian relief. On Wednesday, he dispatched U.S. emergency teams to Haiti.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled trips to the Asia-Pacific region to help oversee relief efforts for Haiti from Washington.

Secretary Clinton called the situation "catastrophic."

In a State Department briefing, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Dr. Rajiv Shah, said the U.S. is dispatching disaster assistance response teams that will include personnel, search and rescue dogs, and up to 48 tons of rescue equipment.

The commander of the U.S. Southern Command, General Douglas Fraser, told reporters the U.S. also is considering sending troops to support the U.N. mission in Haiti. He said a U.S. aircraft carrier with helicopters is already being moved to the country and should arrive Thursday afternoon.

The State Department says it is aware of at least three possible American deaths, and says it is working to locate U.S. embassy personnel and other U.S. citizens in Haiti. Americans trying to reach missing relatives in Haiti can call the State Department at 1-888-407-4747 or 202-647-5225.

Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph, told VOA Wednesday that the country is facing a major catastrophe. In the interview in Washington, he said U.S. aid to Haiti is about $300 million now, and that his country would probably need that commitment increased to as much as $1 billion or more.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning Wednesday, urging Americans not to travel to Haiti and for those in the country to take precautions against aftershocks.

The FBI is warning potential donors who want to help relief efforts in Haiti to be cautious of fraudulent schemes. They suggest making sure that before giving a donation to verify that the organization is legitimate.