Death toll from 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti rises to more than 1,200

Aug. 16: Haiti’s government declared a state of emergency after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the country Saturday, killing at least 1,297 people and injuring more than 5,700, the country’s civil defense agency said.

Of the 1,297 dead, 1,054 are in the Southern Administrative Region, 119 in Grand’Anse, 122 in Nippe and two in the Northwest Region, the Civil Defense said.

The quake destroyed 13,694 homes and damaged another 13,785, agency officials said. The devastation also resulted in hospitals being blocked and roads that could carry vital supplies being blocked.

“When it comes to medical needs, this is our biggest urgency. We have begun sending medical supplies and medical personnel to the affected facilities,” Prime Minister Ariel Henry said. “For people who need urgent special care, we have evacuated a certain number of people, and we will evacuate some more today and tomorrow.”

A state of emergency is in effect in the Western Department, Southern Department, Nippes and Grand’Anse.

The earthquake occurred at 8:30 a.m. at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), with the epicenter about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud in the southwest. That location was about 96 kilometers (60 miles) west of the catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake in 2010 that killed about 220,000 to 300,000 people.

Saturday’s quake was much less destructive than the 2010 quake. A U.N. reconnaissance mission to the affected areas found “less destruction than originally expected,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Sunday.
“The most urgent humanitarian needs are expected to be medical care and water, sanitation and hygiene,” the organization said.

Amethyst Arcelius, administrator of Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, told CNN Sunday that he expects a massive wave of casualties, including many residents of the city’s outskirts who could not make it Saturday or were too afraid of more aftershocks to try to seek medical help.

“We are starting to get help from nongovernmental organizations and the government, but it is far from enough. We desperately need X-ray film,” Arcelius said.

There are currently 500 earthquake victims in the hospital, many with broken legs and limbs as well as head injuries.

The earthquake is just the latest problem for a country still struggling with the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last month, which has yet to be solved or properly explained, has added more instability to a country in crisis.

“We are concerned that this earthquake is just another crisis in addition to those the country is already facing, including the worsening political stalemate following the assassination of the president, Covid and food insecurity,” Jean-Vicens Merone of World Vision Haiti said in a statement.

In addition, strong winds and heavy rains caused by Tropical Storm Grace are likely in Haiti Monday and Tuesday, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said. Those rains could lead to flooding and landslides, further complicating recovery efforts.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the entire coast of Haiti is under a tropical storm watch, meaning a tropical storm is possible within 48 hours.

“I’m concerned about the coming storm because it could complicate our situation,” said Jerry Chandler, head of Haiti’s civil defense agency.

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