The death toll from a devastating earthquake in Haiti rose to 1,297 on Sunday as neighboring countries rushed to send aid and rescuers scrambled to find survivors buried beneath the rubble before a tropical storm hits.
The 7.2 magnitude quake on Saturday destroyed thousands of homes and buildings in a Caribbean nation which is still clawing its way back from another major temblor 11 years ago and is reeling from the assassination of its president last month.
Southwestern Haiti bore the brunt of the blow, especially in the region in and around the town of Les Cayes. Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency said the toll from the disaster had climbed to 1,297 and the hospitals that were still functioning were struggling to cope with some 5,700 injured people registered so far.
Hundreds of homes and buildings were flattened in the country, which is still clawing its way back from another major tremor, 11 years ago and reeling from the assassination of its president Jovenel Moise just last month.
People look for survivors amongst the rubble in the neighborhood of Dexia 6, Les Cayes, Haiti
A destroyed building is seen in Les Cayes on August 15, 2021, after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the southwest peninsula of the country
A statute of the virgin of the church ‘Sacre coeur des Cayes’ is seen under the rubble in Les Cayes
People look for survivors amongst the rubble. Hunched sheltered on benches, curled up in chairs or even lay on the floor
An injured woman has her neck braced by a doctor at a hospital in Les Cayes
An earthquake victim who was airlifted from the city of Les Cayes, is moved to an ambulance by health workers, at the local terminal of the Toussaint Louverture airport in Port-au-Prince
Injured patients rest at a hospital in Les Cayes after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake
Rescue workers search through destroyed buildings in Les Caye
Members of a rescue and protection team carry the body of a person as they clean debris from a house
Members of a rescue and protection team clean debris from a house
Rescue teams were on site on Sunday looking for survivors
Personnel carry out debris removal, search and rescue work, in Les Cayes, Haiti
The United States sent an urban search and rescue team to Haiti
Two search and rescue units from the US are now in the country searching for survivors
A view of the damage caused by the earthquake, in Les Cayes, Haiti on Sunday
Locals search for victims in a home destroyed by an earthquake in Camp-Perrin, Les Cayes
Locals recover their belongings from their homes destroyed in the earthquake in Camp-Perrin
People drive past the remains of the Sacre coeur des Cayes church in Les Cayes
A policeman secures the site of the Le Maguier hotel in Les Cayes
The body of a woman is seen under the rubble in the neighborhood of Dexia 6, Les Cayes
Multiple houses across the island nation, including this one in Les Cayes, were destroyed in Saturday’s quake
A group of survivors tried to clear the wreckage made by the 7.2 magnitude quake
Some tried to look for survivors at a house in Les Cayes, but rescuers are said to be struggling to find anyone who is still alive
As of Sunday, the death toll from the earthquake reached 724 people. It more than doubled from the previous update of 304 fatalities shared by officials on Saturday
The challenge facing Haiti has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, a severe economic downturn aggravated by fierce gang violence, and a political crisis that has engulfed the troubled nation after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7.
Churches, hotels, hospitals and schools were badly damaged or destroyed, while the walls of a prison were rent open by the violent shudders that convulsed Haiti.
In Les Cayes, a seafront town of some 90,000 people, rescuers in red hard hats and blue overalls pulled bodies from the tangled wreckage of one building, as a yellow mechanical excavator nearby helped to shift the rubble.
In a news conference Sunday morning, Prime Minister Ariel Henry said: ‘The most important this is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble.’
He added: ‘We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.
‘We must work together to provide rapid and effective responses to this extremely serious situation,’ he said.
Officials in the city estimate that there are only about 30 doctors for one million residents.
Henry said officials have started ‘to send medications and medical personnel to the facilities that are affected,’ and ‘for the people who need urgent special care, we have evacuated a certain number of them and we will evacuate some more today and tomorrow.’
And to help, former Senator Herve Foucand was using his small propeller plane to ferry people to Haiti’s capital, which was not as severely damages as Les Cayes.
‘I have 30 people in serious condition waiting for me,’ Foucand told the Times, ‘but I only have seven seats.’
A firefighter crawled through a hole in the debris to search for survivors in a damaged building
Firefighters risked their lives Sunday to continue to search through rubble
A mother carried her child as she walked through the remains of her home in Les Cayes
Nearby countries, including the Dominican Republic and Mexico, rushed to send desperately needed food and medicines by air and across Haiti’s land border.
The United States dispatched vital supplies and deployed a 65-person urban search-and-rescue team with specialized equipment, said Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The quake destroyed at least 2,800 homes and damaged another 5,400, according to Haiti’s civil protection agency, CNN reports.
Meanwhile, the main supermarket and smaller food and supply markets in Les Cayes collapsed, leaving about half a million people with dwindling supplies, and worrying that some may start looting over basic needs like water, according to the Times.
The quake snapped the town’s underground pipes, causing flooding, triggering some landslides and blocking the main road into Jeremie, complicating relief efforts there.
On Sunday morning, the
Some Haitians said they spent Saturday night sleeping in the open, traumatized by memories of the magnitude 7 quake in 2010 that struck far closer to the sprawling capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed tens of thousands of people.
Footage of Saturday’s aftermath posted on social media showed residents reaching into narrow openings in piles of fallen masonry to pull shocked and distraught people from the debris of walls and roofs that had crumbled around them.
Access to the worst-hit areas was complicated by a deterioration in law and order that has left key access roads in parts of Haiti in the hands of gangs, although unconfirmed reports on social media suggested they would let aid pass.
Les Cayes locals sat around the debris Sunday morning to eat breakfast
Some spent the night outside out of fear their roofs could collapse on them
Thousands of buildings were destroyed in the earthquake
For some, the wreckage of Saturday’s earthquake harkened images of a January 2010 earthquake that left hundreds of thousands of people dead.
‘The neighbors, I saw them running and running,’ Lydie Jean-Baptiste said of the earthquake over the weekend. ‘I said ‘What’s wrong?’ They said ‘Earthquake!’ and I rushed to the front door.’
‘All of a sudden , I had all of those images of January 12 coming to my mind and I felt really, really scared.’
Estimates of the death toll from that hurricane vary from below 100,000 to as high as the government’s 316,000.
‘People had their heads cut off, corpses, everything,’ she said. ‘For 48 hours, I just felt like ‘Am I alive? Did I awaken somewhere else?’
Iconic buildings in the nation were destroyed by that earthquake, including the Notre Dame l’Assomption Cathedral, and tens of thousands of Haitians are still living in provisional housing as a result of the quake.
Efforts to rebuild have been hampered by a flawed international aid system, corruption and political turmoil.
Jean-Baptiste said it took her nearly a year before she felt comfortable sleeping under her own roof, without fearing that it would collapse on her, but now, she said, ‘the trauma is coming back.’
Some have said they would feel more comfortable sleeping outside in the aftermath of Saturday’s quake.
Meanwhile, the country is facing a tropical storm that is expected to hit the area on Monday
As of Sunday, the entire coast of Haiti was under a tropical storm watch
Many Haitians spent Saturday night sleeping in the open, traumatized by memories of that magnitude 7 quake 11 years ago that struck far closer to the sprawling capital, Port-au-Prince.
At Port-au-Prince airport, international aid workers, doctors and rescue workers waited to board flights to Les Cayes. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter ferried the wounded.
The rescue and aid efforts will be complicated by Tropical Storm Grace, which is expected to lash Haiti with heavy rainfall on Monday. Some parts of Haiti are also at risk of flash floods, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
‘We are bracing for Tropical Storm Grace,’ the Civil Protection Agency’s Chandler told Reuters.
The earthquake came at a time of political turmoil for the island nation, just one month after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7.
‘We’re concerned that this earthquake is just one more crisis on top of what the country is already facing – including the worsening political stalemate after the president’s assassination, COVID and food insecurity, Jean-Wickens Merone, a spokesman for World Vision Haiti said in a statement to CNN.
The rescue efforts are set to be made more complicated by the arrival of Tropical Storm Grace, which is set to lash Haiti with heavy rainfall on Monday. There was also the possibility of flash flooding, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
As of Sunday, the entire coast of Haiti was under a tropical storm watch.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis urged nations to send quick aid.
‘May solidarity from everyone lighten the consequences of the tragedy,’ he told pilgrims and tourists at his Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square.
The United States sent vital supplies and deployed a 65-person urban search-and-rescue team with specialized equipment, said Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
A woman sits in front of a destroyed house after the earthquake in Camp-Perrin, Les Cayes
A family eats breakfast in front of homes destroyed by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Les Cayes
A firefighter searches for survivors inside a damaged building
People rest after spending the night at a soccer field following Saturday´s 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti
Firefighters search for survivors inside a collapsed building
A woman carries her child as she walks in the remains of her home
People displaced by Saturday´s 7.2 magnitude earthquake collect water after sleeping in the streets
Greogory Andre shows a photo of his brother Remossa Andre, who died during the earthquake
A couple sleeps after spending the night at a soccer field following Saturday´s 7.2 magnitude earthquake
A girl washes her face after spending the night at a soccer field
A family wakes inside a mosquito net outside a tent after spending the night at a soccer field
Firefighters search for survivors inside a collapsed building after the quake
Locals begin to wake up after spending the night outside after Saturday´s quake
Locals eat after spending the night in the middle of a street
Men carry a mattress as people sleep on the streets
People displaced from their destroyed houses by the earthquake spend the night outdoors in a hospital garden
People leave the earthquake-affected area in a pickup truck, in Camp-Perrin, Les Cayes
A road is seen damaged by the earthquake in Camp-Perrin, Les Cayes, Haiti on Sunday
An earthquake victim who was airlifted from the city of Les Cayes, is moved to an ambulance by health workers
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