Over 304 people died and others injured after a 7.2 –magnitude quake hit southwestern Haiti on Saturday. According to Haitian leaders, churches, schools, hotels, and homes were reduced to debris during the latest disaster to strike the weak Caribbean country.
The major earthquake, which was accompanied by several aftershocks, hit 5 miles (8km) from Petit Trou de Nippes, located about 150km west of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, at a depth of 10km, as reported by the United States Geological Survey. The temblor was more severe than the 7 magnitude that happened in 2010 and killed tens of thousands in the Caribbean nation. It was felt across the island, including in Jamaica and Cuba.
The earthquake happened at 8.30 a.m. local time and struck far away from Port-au –Prince. However, it was strongly felt in the capital but did not seem to have caused any damage. Civil Protection Service of Haiti reported a death toll of 304, with over 1,800 people injured and more people not accounted for. Emergency teams and citizens helped in rescue operations enabling many people to be saved from the rubble.
Over 949 homes, seven churches, two restaurants, and three learning institutions had been damaged. Other723 homes, a prison, three hospitals, and seven schools had been destroyed, but there was no destruction to the airport, port, or telecoms infrastructure. The region trembled again late on Saturday when a 5.8 magnitude aftershock struck, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported. It was not immediately known what damage it caused.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who flew over the area to observe the impact of the tragedy, declared a state of emergency that would last for a month.
Les Cayes being the nearest big town, was also affected as many buildings collapsed, authorities stated. A 38-year-old resident of Las Cayes, Jean Marie Simon, said he saw bodies being pulled out of the debris, some injured and others perhaps dead. Simon was at the market when the tragedy happened, and he rushed home to check if his family was safe. “I heard cries of pain everywhere I passed through,” he said.
His wife and child had been showering and run to the street naked just before the front of the house was crushed. He covered his wife with his shirt and went to seek shelter in a churchyard with other residents. The house of Simon’s mother had also been crushed. Videos spreading on social media showed people pulling others from debris and groups of people queueing at the hospitals waiting for treatment.
USGS said a huge population was vulnerable to landslides, with a likelihood of road obstructions. Haitian Civil Protection services said a landslide had blocked the road between the town of Jeremie and Les Cayes. The highway to the southern area where the earthquake hit has been restricted by gang control of main regions, although Ariel said the police would accompany a protective escort heading to the south.