Bill Clinton: Haiti Quake Tragedy for Millions, United Nations

The former president, now a U.N. special envoy, urged Americans to give cash.

January 13, 2010, 5:38 PM

Jan. 13, 2010— -- The disaster in Haiti, affecting more than 3 million people, may be one of the most devastating tragedies ever to hit the United Nations, former President Bill Clinton told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an interview for "World News."

Clinton, who was appointed the United Nations' special envoy to Haiti in May 2008, said the U.N. itself has been hit hard.

"Our U.N. hotel, as you know, [was] five stories [and] completely collapsed. Today, only 10 people [were] recovered alive," Clinton told Stephanopoulos.

At least 16 U.N. employees, including chief of the U.N. mission in Haiti, Hedi Annabi, have died, with at least 56 more injured, a U.N. spokesman told ABC News.

"It's highly likely to be the highest mortality count we've ever had," Clinton said.

One day after the 7.0-magnitude quake struck the Latin American island, Clinton said officials there can still only speculate on the death toll in what is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Haitian President Rene Preval estimated today that between 30,000 and 50,000 people may have died.

"We are still having people work through the rubble, and the places you'd normally look to can't provide" enough immediate help, Clinton said. "But we do know what to do. ... We'll have this thing organized and in a day or so. The trick is going to be to find as many people while they're still alive and be kept alive."

The international effort to assist the people of Haiti following its worst earthquake in 240 years is still in an early stage and faces monumental challenges.

Clinton praised the U.S. government's response to the Haiti earthquake but said more helicopters are needed, as well as earth-moving equipment and floating power generators.

"The number-one thing we have to do for the next few days is to concentrate on the basics," he said. "We've got to get into those buildings, dig them out, find the living and then go back to work."

Clinton Humanitarian Efforts Focus on Haiti

Clinton issued a statement Tuesday evening in his capacity as special envoy, saying that his "U.N. office and the rest of the U.N. system are monitoring the situation, and we are committed to do whatever we can to assist the people of Haiti in their relief, rebuilding and recovery efforts."

The former president has visited Haiti several times since leaving office in 2000 in an effort to help bring greater international investment and humanitarian aid to the island, which has faced a food crisis, destabilizing riots and four devastating tropical storms in recent years.

The Clinton Foundation works in Haiti on a number of issues including health care, AIDS, the environment and economic development.

Clinton, who is popular among many Haitians for using the threat of U.S. force to oust a dictatorship in 1994, visited Haiti as president in 1995.

"I'd be back there tonight if I didn't think I'm doing more good here [in the United States], staying on the phone trying to help solve problems," Clinton said on "World News."

As for how average Americans can help, Clinton said the best thing to do is donate cash.

"Unless you're in a search-and-rescue team or a medical team, the best thing you can do is give money for food, water, shelter and first aid supplies. Those are the things we need," he said.

To learn more about ways that you can help the victims of the Haiti earthquake, click HERE.

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