Haiti earthquake: At least 11 dead and dozens injured after tremor hits north of country

Maya Oppenheim
Reuters

At least 11 people have been killed after a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck northern Haiti late on Saturday.

The quake, which was one of the strongest to hit the Caribbean nation since a major tremor in 2010 killed more than 200,000 people, sparked an overnight rush to help towns in the impoverished Caribbean country affected by the shockwave.

Police said at least seven people died and more than 100 were injured in Port-de-Paix on the northern coast near the epicentre of the earthquake, which struck at a depth of 11.7 kilometres (7.3 miles), according to the US Geological Survey.

Another four people were killed in and around the town of Gros-Morne further south, local authorities said. Rescue teams fanned out to help residents, many of whom were still dealing with the trauma of a devastating earthquake in 2010.

Port-de-Paix, Gros-Morne, the town of Chansolme and the northern island of Tortuga were among the areas worst hit, Haiti's civil protection agency said in a statement.

“The shock was felt across all departments of the country, giving rise to panic in several towns,” the agency said.

President Jovenel Moise urged people to remain calm - saying on Twitter that he had ordered “all of the republic's resources” to be directed towards assisting recovery efforts.

Some houses in the worst-affected areas were destroyed by the earthquake, the agency said.

Dozens of injured people were rushed to hospitals, and officials said the full extent of the destruction may not be clear until Sunday morning.

The civil protection agency said early on Sunday that at least 135 people were being treated for injuries.

Among the damaged buildings was a church in the northern town of Plaisance, the agency said.

The tremor was one of the strongest to batter Haiti since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck near the capital, Port-au-Prince, in 2010. It killed tens of thousands of people.

Saturday's quake was felt in Port-au-Prince but initial reports suggested it had not caused major damage there.

Local newspaper Le Nouvelliste said one person was killed when an auditorium collapsed in Gros-Morne and that detainees were released from a damaged police holding cell.

Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant said a crisis cabinet had been formed to coordinate all emergency responses to the earthquake.

"Damage has been recorded mainly in the far north. All my sympathies to the victims. The executive at the highest level is mobilised to provide appropriate answers. I call on the population to be cautious and calm," he said in a statement shared on Twitter.

Additional reporting by Reuters