*First lady Michelle Obama and the vice president’s wife Jill Biden made an unannounced trip to Haiti this morning to review the relief efforts following the deadly 7.0 earthquake that struck on Jan. 12.
The plan was to spend part of the day in Haiti and address the media before departing for Mexico City to begin a long-planned, three-day visit, an aide said.
In her first solo trip abroad, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden took a helicopter tour of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital where more than a million people are homeless, many living underneath tents and tarps.
A White House statement said Obama and Biden were visiting Haiti to “underscore to the Haitian people and the Haitian government the enduring U.S. commitment to help Haiti recover and rebuild, especially as we enter the rainy and hurricane seasons.”
The women were also expected to thank people across the U.S. government for their “extraordinary efforts” in Haiti, the statement said.
While in Haiti, the two will reach out to the UN and international relief communities to salute a “truly global effort underway to help Haiti,” it said.
Her aides for weeks had been billing the visit to Mexico as her first official international trip without the president — but Haiti got the nod instead. Aides said the devastated Caribbean island was added to the itinerary but kept on the down low due to concerns about security and crowd control.
She chose to visit Haiti, where the devastating quake is believed to have killed more than 200,000 people, to see first-hand the progress of relief efforts and support to the ongoing humanitarian mission, an aide said.
Tomorrow, Mrs. Obama’s to-do list in the Mexican capital includes meeting with students of all ages, touring an anthropology museum and dining at Los Pinos with President Felipe Calderon and his wife, Margarita Zavala.
On Thursday, Obama will meet with U.S. embassy employees and young Mexican leaders before departing for San Diego, Calif.
[Specific account of Mrs. Obama’s landing in Haiti is listed below the PSA.]
Below is the pool reporter’s minute-by-minute account of Michelle Obama’s visit to Haiti:
The US Army helicopter carrying the First Lady of the United States and Dr. Jill Biden landed at 11:17 am. President Rene Preval and his wife, Elisabeth Delatour Preval appeared two minutes later. The president is wearing a black suit, his wife a pant suit.
FLOTUS stepped off the chopper at 11:21 am wearing grey slacks, and a blue shirt with black flats. Her cropped hair was straight. Professor Jill Biden has on khaki pants and white shirt along with white tennis shoes.
FLOTUS greeted Preval, first, and then the Haitian First Lady both kisses on the cheek. As she walked around the corner, speaking with Mrs. Preval, FLOTUS said of her first impressions:
“It’s powerful. The devastation is definitely powerful.”