U.S. airlifts Haitians to safety after earthquake

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter transports a victim the day after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on August 14. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Villa-Rodriguez)

U.S. emergency workers are rushing to assist Haiti after a massive earthquake, searching for survivors, airlifting them to hospitals and delivering urgent humanitarian assistance.

President Biden authorized an immediate response after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on August 14. The earthquake killed at least 2,200 people and injured more than 12,000 as of August 23, according to the government of Haiti. It damaged or destroyed an estimated 130,000 homes and 24 medical facilities.

Rescue workers have been working among homes destroyed when an earthquake struck Les Cayes, Haiti, on August 14. (© Richard Pierrin/Getty Images)
“We are supporting efforts to assess the damage and assist efforts to recover those who were injured and those who must now rebuild,” Biden said. “The United States remains a close and enduring friend to the people of Haiti, and we will be there in the aftermath of this tragedy.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is coordinating the response, which has included search and rescue workers from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia, as well as U.S. Coast Guard and Navy helicopters. The USS Arlington arrived in Haiti on August 21 to support response efforts.

U.S. support has aided or rescued more than 335 people by providing urgent medical assistance or medical evacuation for critically injured people.

The U.S. is also working with partners to distribute urgently needed supplies to tens of thousands of people. In partnership with the U.N. World Food Programme, USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance is providing 830 metric tons of food — enough to feed more than 62,000 people for one month.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Updike (center) works with international partners to assist a Haitian earthquake victim August 15. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Villa-Rodriguez)

The International Organization for Migration, a USAID partner, is also distributing aid, including hygiene kits, blankets, jerry cans to safely store water, kitchen sets, plastic sheets and shelter repair kits in hard-hit areas.

“Haiti thanks the US for responding so swiftly to its request,” Bocchit Edmond, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, said August 19. “We value this gesture and our friendship shall continue to endure.”

U.S. teams are working with international organizations and partner nations, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the European Commission.

A USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team member holds the hand of an earthquake victim August 16 in Haiti. (USAID)