On Saturday morning, the most powerful earthquake to hit Haiti in over two decades caused 304 deaths and 1,800 injuries. The USGS predicts that this death toll could reach into the thousands as Haitians scramble for safety from aftershocks which have so far been too strong to be felt on other continents.
With a magnitude of 7.0, Haiti’s latest earthquake is strikingly similar to the 2010 quake in terms of strength and location on the fault line. The result was devastation: according to BBC News, “Haiti suffered 220,000 dead – more than 30 times its previous worst toll”, as well as 1 million displaced people and 300 injured citizens through this most recent disaster that occurred only two minutes ago at 12 am EST (0500 GMT).
A deadly 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit Port au Prince earlier today leaving an estimated 230 casualties so far with thousands still trapped beneath rubble from collapsed buildings throughout Pétionville boroughs 8 & 9 which are now being evacuated by aid workers for medical attention while rescue teams continue the search.
Henry, Haiti’s new Prime Minister in a translated tweet extended his sympathies “to the parents of those killed by this violent earthquake which has caused several losses of human and material lives across our country.” The state of emergency will be declared for one month as we assess the damage from this disaster. Rescue teams are being sent to search for survivors during that time period.
The U.S. has responded immediately and Samantha Power has been named as the U.S. point of contact. A White House official said that the AID administrator would coordinate the effort.
USGS reports that the epicentre was 12 kilometres, or 7.5 miles, northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud and 10 kilometres deep. The survey said that it struck five miles from the town of Petit-Trou-de-Nippes in western France.
According to the USGS, the earthquake falls under the “red alert” category.
The USGS said there is a possibility of significant casualties and extensive damage, and red alerts have required national or international response in the past.
According to Port-au-Prince journalist Harold Isaac on NPR’s Weekend Edition, two major cities, Les Cayes and Jeremie, have been severely affected.
In Haiti, the latest crisis is the earthquake
The earthquake that has just taken place in Haiti comes amid unrest, following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last month.
Isaac says “The whole crisis that Haiti has been going through, especially in the last few months- including recent events such as presidential assassinations and a magnitude 8.1 earthquake- was never really ready to face yet another natural disaster.”
“It’s yet another crisis, a major one for the new government. The COVID-19 virus is not only wreaking havoc on millions of people but also has left many without jobs and income in its wake.”
Cara Buck, acting country director for Mercy Corps said that she fears about how much worse things will get if this epidemic continues to spread: “The ability of the government to respond is certainly in question,” Cara told NPR News’ Don Gonyea today.
The region is doubly threatened by another natural disaster: Tropical Storm Grace could hit early next week as Haitians are still reeling from the earthquake. Winds up to 45 mph and 3-6 inches of rainfall are projected, according to the National Hurricane Center. Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Fred has been classified as a tropical storm earlier but it may regain strength in coming days; this type of precipitation would be unwelcome for Haitian people recovering from an earthquake that was made worse by heavy rains that led rivers to overbank their banks last year.
People in the capital of Port-au-Prince, about 80 miles to the east of the epicentre, felt their buildings shake and some people ran into streets out of fear. Buck who was in this eastern area said that she woke up feeling her building sink like it’s underwater but luckily they were able to take shelter before things got worse.
Henry, the prime minister of Haiti delivered an important message to his people on Twitter. With a sense of urgency in his voice, he stated “to the spirit of solidarity and commitment.” He continued by reminding that unity is a strength as they face this dramatic situation together.