Rescue teams were looking for survivors Sunday in Haiti in the aftermath of a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that left at least 304 dead and more than 1,800 injured in the southwest of the island and revived terrible memories of the great earthquake of earth 2010.
The earthquake occurred on Saturday at 08:29 (12:29 GMT) 12 km from the city of Saint-Louis-du-Sud, located some 160 km from the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, according to data from the Institute American Geophysics (USGS).
Many buildings collapsed during the powerful earthquake that trapped hundreds of residents under concrete slabs.
Residents mobilized to help victims injured in the collapse of buildings. “The first interventions, carried out by professional rescuers as well as by members of the population, made it possible to extract many people from the rubble”, underlined the civil protection services.
More than 1,800 people were injured in the earthquake and the few hospitals in the affected regions are already struggling to provide emergency care.
The head of government, Ariel Henry, who flew over the worst affected areas by helicopter on Saturday, announced that a state of emergency had been declared for one month in the four departments affected by the disaster.
– Threat of gangs –
Staff and medicines have been dispatched by the Ministry of Health to the southwestern peninsula, but emergency logistics are threatened by the insecurity that has plagued Haiti for months.
Over a little over two kilometers, the only road connecting the capital to the southern half of the country crosses the poor neighborhood of Martissant under the control of armed gangs since early June, preventing free movement.
“It is necessary that all the aid can pass,” Prime Minister Ariel Henry said on Saturday evening.
US President Joe Biden on Saturday offered the “immediate” assistant to the United States. He tasked the director of the United States International Aid Agency (USAID), Samantha Powers, to coordinate this effort.
For his part the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres assured “to follow the latest developments in the tragedy in Haiti”. “The United Nations is working to support emergency needs,” he tweeted.
– Hotel and collapsed houses –
The Dominican Republic, neighboring Haiti on the same island, has announced the dispatch of 10,000 emergency rations and medical equipment.
Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela have also offered to help, as has Ecuador, which sends a team of 34 firefighters to participate in the search.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez assured Haitians that they could “count on help from Spain”.
The 253 Cuban doctors present in the country to cooperate in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic were adapting a hospital in Port-au-Prince to receive the wounded.
Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, whose father is Haitian, will offer all of the earnings she will receive in an upcoming tournament to the victims of the earthquake. “This devastation really hurts,” she wrote on twitter.
On the south coast, a multi-story hotel, called Le Manguier, collapsed in Les Cayes, Haiti’s third largest city. The lifeless body of former Haitian senator Gabriel Fortuné, owner of the hotel, was removed from the rubble. His death has been confirmed by the Prime Minister.
The long shock was felt across the country. With more than 200,000 inhabitants, the agglomeration of Jérémie, at the southwestern end of the peninsula, suffered extensive damage in the city center.
“The roof of the cathedral has fallen,” Job Joseph, a resident of Jeremiah, told AFP. “The main street is blocked”.
“I was at home when it started to shake, I was near a window and I saw all things fall”, told AFP, Christella Saint Hilaire, 21, who lives in the town of L’Asile, near the epicenter of the earthquake. “A piece of wall fell on my back but I’m not too hurt.”
Relief efforts could be hampered as Tropical Storm Grace approaches, with the risk of torrential downpours and rapid flooding, according to the US National Weather Service.
– The trauma of the 2010 earthquake –
On videos shared online, residents filmed various collapsed buildings.
The poorest country in the Americas still remembers the earthquake of January 12, 2010, which devastated the capital and several provincial towns.
More than 200,000 people were killed and more than 300,000 others were injured in the disaster.
More than a million and a half Haitians were left homeless, placing the authorities and the international humanitarian community before the colossal challenge of reconstruction in a country without land registry or town planning rules.
Without succeeding in meeting this reconstruction challenge, Haiti, regularly hit by hurricanes, plunged into an acute socio-political crisis.