The president has designated Dr. Raj Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as disaster coordinator for the U.S. response to the Haitian earthquake.
Private agencies, such as the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and Food for the Poor were mobilizing relief efforts as well. The United Nations Foundation, founded by Ted Turner, pledged $1 million to the U.N.'s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). The Red Cross also said it was releasing $1 million for immediate relief, though it added that its office in Port-au-Prince had been destroyed.
By this evening, two Coast Guard cutters, the Forward and the Mohawk, had arrived at Port-au-Prince. Each has a helicopter flight deck, satellite communications equipment, and the ability to provide coordination to military aircraft in the area. Two other cutters, the Tahoma and the Valiant, were on the way.
Two Coast Guard C-130 cargo planes were sent to evacuate U.S. embassy personnel to Santo Domingo in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
"It is a catastrophe, it is terrible. The access to Port-au-Prince now is impossible by car," said Louis St. Germain, a pastor who runs an orphanage in the town of Les Cayes. "So the whole city is in panic."
ABC News' Dan Harris, Kate Snow, Martha Raddatz, Suzan Clarke, Luis Martinez, Dennis Powell, Matt Hosford and Kirit Radia contributed reporting for this story.