PORT-AU-PRINCE / HAVANA, Aug. 14 (Reuters) – At least 304 people died and hundreds were injured after a severe earthquake struck southwest Haiti on Saturday, authorities said churches, hotels, schools and homes were in of the recent tragedy were reduced to rubble to hit the impoverished Caribbean nation.
The 7.2 magnitude quake, followed by a series of aftershocks, struck 8 km (5 miles) from the town of Petit Trou de Nippes, about 150 km west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, at a depth of 10 km. said the United States Geological Survey.
That made the earthquake that could be felt as far as Cuba and Jamaica possibly bigger and shallower than the magnitude 7 earthquake 11 years ago that killed tens of thousands on the island.
However, this – which took place around 8:30 a.m. local time – arrived further away from the capital. According to Reuters witnesses, it was felt strongly in Port-au-Prince, but did not appear to have caused any major damage.
Still, Haiti’s Civil Protection Service said the preliminary death toll was 304, with at least 1,800 injured and others missing. Preliminary rescue operations by emergency services and ordinary citizens have already rescued many people from the rubble.
At least 949 houses, seven churches, two hotels and three schools were destroyed, it said. Another 723 homes, a prison, three health centers and seven schools were damaged, although there was no major damage to the port, airport or telecommunications infrastructure.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who flew over the region to assess the damage, declared a month-long state of emergency.
The next larger city was Les Cayes, where according to the authorities many buildings collapsed or suffered great damage.
“I’ve seen bodies pulled from the rubble, injured and maybe dead,” said Jean Marie Simon, 38 from Les Cayes, who was in the market during the earthquake and ran home to see if his family got in Security was. “I heard screams of pain everywhere I passed.”
His wife and two-year-old child had bathed and hurried naked into the street just before the house facade collapsed. Simon gave his wife his shirt and they took refuge in the courtyard of a church with other locals. His mother’s house had also collapsed.
“There are a lot of aftershocks and every time there is one people run and scream,” he said. “My legs are still shaking.”
Videos posted on social media showed citizens pulling others out of the rubble and crowds waiting for medical care in overcrowded hospitals.
USGS said a significant portion of the population is at risk of landslides, with road obstruction likely. Haiti’s civil protection service said a landslide blocked the highway between Les Cayes and the town of Jeremie.
Relief efforts are likely made more difficult by the fact that Haiti is now in the likely path of tropical storm Grace, which could bring heavy rains and winds early next week.
Road access to the southern region where the quake took place has also been restricted by gang control in key areas, although Henry said police would escort all convoys heading south. Continue reading
‘NEVER TAKE A BREAK’
The earthquake struck just over a month after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, who ruled by decree, exacerbating political unrest in the country.
Meanwhile, large parts of Haiti are facing growing hunger and health services are already overwhelmed by COVID-19.
This region had only recently recovered from Hurricane Matthew, which struck in 2016, killing hundreds and wreaking havoc.
“This country just never finds a break! Every year of mismanagement hasn’t hurt, but the cumulative effects have left us vulnerable to anything, ”Haitian entrepreneur Marc Alain Boucicault said on Twitter.
“It will take years to fix things and we haven’t even started!”
In Port-au-Prince, residents traumatized by the 2010 quake stormed into the street screaming and stayed there while the aftershocks continued.
“I heard people screaming in my neighborhood. They flew outside,” said Sephora Pierre Louis, a resident. “At least they know they have to go outside. In 2010 they didn’t know what to do. People are still out on the street.”
The quake sent shock waves as far as Cuba and Jamaica, although no property damage, deaths or injuries were reported there.
“Everyone’s really scared. It’s been years since such a big earthquake occurred,” said Daniel Ross, a resident of the eastern Cuban city of Guantanamo.
He said his house was solid, but the furniture was shaking.
“I feel it, man. It wakes me up. My roof is making a little noise,” said Danny Bailey, 49, in Kingston.
US President Joe Biden said he had authorized an immediate US response and appointed Samantha Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, to coordinate the effort.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also said he was ordering the government to prepare immediate aid.
Reporting by Andre Paultre in Port-au-Prince, Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta in Havana, Kate Chappell in Kingston and Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru and Frances Kerry in London; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Aurora Ellis, and Matthew Lewis
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.