Haiti: Many deaths feared after major 7.2-magnitude earthquake

A deadly earthquake has struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti.

The 7.2-magnitude quake hit the west of the country on Saturday morning, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). Images on social media showed buildings reduced to rubble.

The prime minister said it had caused “several” deaths and “enormous damage”, though the exact toll remains unclear.

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Haiti is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people.

The epicentre of Saturday’s earthquake was about 12km (7.5 miles) from the town of Saint-Louis du Sud.

The tremor was felt in the densely-populated capital of Port-au-Prince, some 125km away, and in neighbouring countries.

“Lots of homes are destroyed, people are dead and some are at the hospital,” Christella Saint Hilaire, who lives near the epicentre, told AFP news agency.

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In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he had mobilised a team to work on the relief effort, and sent condolences to those affected.

The USGS earlier warned that the earthquake could result in thousands of fatalities and injuries.

Frantz Duval, editor-in-chief of Haiti’s Le Nouvelliste newspaper, tweeted that two hotels were among the buildings destroyed in the town of Les Cayes. He said the local hospital was overwhelmed.

“Slowly, strongly and for very long seconds the earth shook in Haiti on 14 August, 2021 around 8:30 am,” he wrote.

Photos shared on social media showed damaged buildings and piles of rubble after the quake.

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Naomi Verneus, a 34-year-old resident of the capital Port-au-Prince, told the Associated Press news agency she was woken up by the earthquake and that her bed was shaking.

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“I woke up and didn’t have time to put my shoes on. We lived [through] the 2010 earthquake and all I could do was run. I later remembered my two kids and my mother were still inside. My neighbour went in and told them to get out. We ran to the street,” she said.

In addition to deaths and injuries, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti caused extensive damage to infrastructure and the economy.

Saturday’s earthquake comes amid a political crisis in the country, following the assassination of its president last month.

Reporting by Albert Rovic Tan

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