Haiti death toll rises to nearly 1,300 after 7.2 magnitude earthquake
More than 1,200 people have died after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, according to the head of the country’s civil protection agency.
At least 1,297 people died and more than 2,800 were injured, said Jerry Chandler.
The confirmed death toll had previously stood at 724, but US geological officials have estimated that thousands may have been killed.
The earthquake completely destroyed nearly 3,000 homes and damaged more than 5,000, Haiti’s civil protection agency said.
Prime minister Ariel Henry declared a state of emergency, and said he will mobilise government resources to help victims in areas affected by the major earthquake, the AP news agency reported.
The south-west of Haiti appears to have had the worst damage, particularly around the city of Les Cayes. The epicentre of the earthquake was about 7.5 mile from the town of Saint-Louis du Sud, the US Geological Survey said.
The destruction has also pushed hospitals to the brink and blocked roads that would carry vital supplies.
Mr Henry said: “When it comes to medical needs, this is our biggest urgency. We have started to send medications and medical personnel to the facilities that are affected
“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.”
The damage and devastation came while Haiti is bracing itself for Tropical Storm Grace, which is projected to hit the island between Monday and Tuesday, and the strong winds and rain are expected to hamper rescue efforts.
US President Joe Biden said he had authorised an “immediate US response”, including a search and rescue team, through USAID.
UN general secretary Antonio Guterres said that the organisation is “supporting rescue and relief efforts”.
Neighbouring country Dominican Republic has offered to send food and medical equipment, and Cuba is reportedly deploying more than 250 of its doctors.
I am following the latest unfolding tragedy in Haiti.
My heart goes out to all affected by the earthquake. My deepest condolences to all who have lost family and friends.
The @UN is working to support rescue and relief efforts.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) August 14, 2021
The quake comes over a decade after a disastrous 7.0-magnitude shock in 2010 that struck closer to the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince, killing an estimated 220,000 people and causing extensive damage to Haiti’s infrastructure and economy.
Haiti has a population of about 11 million people, of which about 59 per cent live below the poverty line.
The earthquake and impending tropical storm come while Haiti was still reeling from the assassination of its president Jovenel Moïse and the political turmoil it caused. First Lady Martine Moïse was also shot, but has survived.
A spokesperson from charity ActionAid has said that Haitian people are struggling with multiple crises, including rising levels of hunger, political instability, and gang violence.