- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 13, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama made a surprise visit to the devastated Haitian capital Tuesday, joining a long list of political figures and celebrities who have toured the country and affirmed international support for reconstruction.

The first lady and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., took a helicopter tour of Port-au-Prince, where hundreds of thousands of homeless quake victims live in squalid temporary settlements, before landing at the destroyed national palace to meet President Rene Preval.

“It’s powerful. The devastation is definitely powerful,” Mrs. Obama told reporters.

The Jan. 12 earthquake leveled much of Port-au-Prince and other cities, and killed an estimated 230,000 in and around the capital. The U.S. has provided nearly $1 billion in humanitarian aid and pledged an additional $1 billion to help the impoverished country recover.

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden’s visit is intended to underscore U.S. commitment to the Haitian reconstruction effort and to thank American officials who have worked in the country for the past three months, the administration said in a statement.

A number of past and present world leaders have visited Haiti since the earthquake, including former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

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