Hundreds dead after major earthquake in Haiti, government agency says

At least 304 people have died and hundreds are injured or missing after a major earthquake struck southwestern Haiti on Saturday, authorities said, reducing churches, hotels and homes to rubble in the latest tragedy to strike the impoverished Caribbean nation.

The 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eight kilometers from the town of Petit-Trou-de-Nippes, about 150 kilometers west of the capital Port-au-Prince, at a depth of 10 kilometers, said the US Geological Survey (USGS).

This made the quake, felt as far away as Cuba and Jamaica, potentially larger and shallower than the magnitude 7 quake that struck Haiti 11 years ago, killing an estimated 250,000 people across the country. poorest country in the Americas.

This one, which occurred around 8:30 a.m. local time, however, struck further from the capital. In Port-au-Prince, it was felt strongly but did not appear to have caused major damage, according to Reuters witnesses, meaning there are likely to be fewer fatalities than the devastating 2010 disaster.

Still, Haiti’s civil protection service said the preliminary death toll already stood at 304, with at least 1,800 injured and others missing. Preliminary rescue operations by rescue teams and ordinary citizens had already resulted in many people being recovered from the rubble.

Workers transport a person rescued from the rubble in Les Cayes on Saturday. (Plymouth Duples/Associated Press)

At least 949 houses, seven churches, two hotels and three schools were destroyed, he added. Another 723 houses, a prison, three health centers and seven schools were damaged, although there was no major damage to port, airport or telecommunications infrastructure.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who flew over the area to survey the damage, declared a month-long state of emergency.

The nearest major town that was hit was Les Cayes, where many buildings collapsed or suffered significant damage, according to authorities, who said they were searching for survivors.

“I saw bodies coming out of the rubble, injured and possibly dead,” said Jean Marie Simon, 38, a resident of Les Cayes, who was at the market when the earthquake hit and ran to his house. him to see if his family was safe. “I heard cries of pain everywhere I went.”

His wife and two-year-old child had bathed and rushed into the street, naked, just before the facade of the house collapsed. Simon gave his wife his shirt and they took refuge in the courtyard of a church with other inhabitants. His mother’s house had also collapsed.

An aerial view of a destroyed hotel is seen in Les Cayes on Saturday. (Ralph Tedy Erol/Associated Press)

“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 from debris and crowds of people waiting for medical treatment in overwhelmed hospitals.

The USGS said a significant portion of the population was at risk of landslides, with road obstructions likely. Haiti’s civil protection service said a landslide blocked the highway between Les Cayes and the town of Jérémie.

The fact that Haiti is now in the likely path of Tropical Storm Grace, which could bring heavy rain and winds early next week, will likely complicate relief efforts.

A truck is covered with rubble in Les Cayes on Saturday. (Delot Jean/Associated Press)

In addition, road access to the southern region, where the earthquake struck, was restricted by gang control in key areas, although Henry said police would accompany any convoys heading towards South.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement on Twitter on Saturday, saying Canada “stands ready to provide assistance in any way possible.”

The federal government has not reported any Canadian casualties to date, according to a statement released Saturday by Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and International Development Minister Karina Gould.

“The Government of Canada expresses its solidarity with the people of Haiti who continue to suffer the devastation caused by natural disasters,” the statement said.

“As a long-time partner in Haiti’s development, we have faith in the strength and resilience of the Haitian people and we will continue to work together for a better future.

“This country never finds respite”

The earthquake comes just over a month after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, who ruled by decree, which has added to the country’s political unrest.

Meanwhile, swathes of Haiti face growing hunger and health services are overwhelmed by COVID-19. Road access to the southern region, where the quake struck, has been restricted by gang control in key areas, raising questions about how aid will be delivered.

This region had only recently recovered from Hurricane Matthew, which struck in 2016, killing hundreds and causing widespread devastation. Haiti is now in the cone of Tropical Storm Grace, which could bring heavy rain early next week.

A woman stands in front of a destroyed house in Les Cayes on Saturday. (Plymouth Duples/Associated Press)

“This country never finds respite! 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’s] it’s going to take years to fix things, and we haven’t even started!”

In Port-au-Prince, residents traumatized by the 2010 earthquake rushed, screaming, into the streets and stood there as the aftershocks rumbled.

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Saturday morning eight kilometers from the town of Petit-Trou-de-Nippes, about 150 km west of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, the government said. US Geological Survey. (Radio-Canada News)

“In my neighborhood, I heard people screaming. They were flying outside,” Port-au-Prince resident Sephora Pierre Louis said, adding that she was still in shock. “At least they know how to get out. In 2010, they didn’t know what to do. People are still out in the streets.”

The quake was felt as far away as Cuba and Jamaica, although there were no reports of property damage, death or injury.

“Everyone is really scared. It’s been years since there has been such a big earthquake,” said Daniel Ross, a resident of Guantanamo town in eastern Cuba.

He said his house was holding up but the furniture was shaking.

“I feel it, man. It wakes me up. My roof is making noise,” said Danny Bailey, 49, in Kingston.

The Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Center also reported an earthquake in the region, saying it was magnitude 7.6, while Cuba’s seismological center said it recorded a magnitude of 7.4.