Powerful quake in Haiti kills 304, hundreds wounded and missing


A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck off Haiti’s coast Saturday, toppling homes, causing hundreds of deaths and triggering a series of aftershocks in the crisis-prone Caribbean nation.

Haiti’s civil protection agency late Saturday reported at least 304 dead and said “hundreds were wounded and missing.”

The quake hit 7.5 miles northeast of the town of Saint-Luis du Sud on the country’s southwestern Tiburon Peninsula.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled to the region and declared a state of emergency, as social media filled with images of crumbled homes, crushed cars and overflowing hospitals in the city of Les Cayes.

In a series of tweets, Henry called for solidarity and promised to “mobilize all the resources of my administration to help victims.”

Among the deceased was Gabriel Fortune, a former senator and mayor, whose body was found in the rubble of his hotel in Les Cayes, Election Minister Matthias Pierre wrote on Twitter. US President Joe Biden authorized an immediate US response, saying “we will be there in the aftermath of this tragedy.”

The US Agency for International Development will support efforts to assess the damage and help with recovering injured victims “and those who must now rebuild,” Biden said in a statement.

On Twitter, Haiti Foreign Minister Claude Joseph thanked the international community for its support and said the scope of the damage still needs to be determined to guarantee “a rational distribution of aid offered by partners and friends of Haiti.”

Saturday’s tremor took place on the same fault line that caused the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti, according to the US Geological Survey.

“High casualties are probable and the disaster is likely widespread,” the US Geological Survey said in a statement early Saturday. “Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response.”

The quake and a series of aftershocks damaged churches, hotels, hospitals and homes. It also caused a large landslide that blocked the main road from Les Cayes to Jeremie on the southwestern tip of the island.

The earthquake comes as Haiti—the poorest nation in the Americas—braces for Tropical Storm Grace, which is expected to sweep over Hispaniola on Monday. The nation is also still recovering from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

“Today’s earthquake is yet another setback for Haiti on top of political instability and worsening violence, Covid-19 and rising food insecurity,” Cara Buck, the acting Haiti director of the aid agency Mercy Corps, said in a statement from Port-au-Prince. “We’re also expecting Tropical Storm Grace next week, which could make any earthquake response even more difficult.”

Image courtesy of AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn

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