After moderate earthquakes kill two and injure dozens, Haiti seeks to educate public

Jose A Iglesias/jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com
·3 min read

Volunteers with Haiti’s disaster response office are continuing to help communities affected by a series of mild earthquakes Monday, while the head of the agency says a massive education campaign is needed.

Jerry Chandler, who heads the Office of Civil Protection, said Haiti needs a “rapid and massive” communication campaign for the population, after a series of tremors left at least two people dead and dozens of schoolchildren and adults injured when they panicked and ran out of buildings.

“Most of the people who were wounded and hurt were because they had bad reactions; they panicked,” Chandler told the Miami Herald. “That showed a lack of information and education.”

Chandler said that until now, donors have not been focused on providing financial assistance to help Haiti educate students and others on how to respond to quakes. But after Monday’s devastation, mobilizing such assistance has become a top priority, he said.

The Office of Civil Protection said about 50 people, most of them teenagers and young adults, had to be taken to the hospital Monday after suffering injuries during dozens of tremors that measured between 1.8 and 5.5 in magnitude. The agency said 591 homes were damaged and 191 were destroyed.

Most of the damages occurred in the Nippes department, which was already affected by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti’s southern peninsula on Aug. 14 and left more than 2,200 dead and around 137,500 homes damaged or destroyed.

The small and newest regional department, the Nippes is situated between the Grand’Anse and the South, the two regions that were hardest hit in August when the earthquake struck five weeks after the assassination of the country’s president, Jovenel Moïse.

That earthquake has also resulted in more than 1,000 aftershocks, Monday’s temblors among them, according to the country’s leading seismologist, Claude Prépetit.

“Yesterday, we recorded 30 or so small ones,” Prépetit said about the tremors. Though the epicenters were located in the Nippes, the tremors were felt in other regions, leading to dozens of schoolchildren running out of classrooms and becoming injured in the process.

“Panic is the cause of the damage due to lack of education by the population,” Prépetit said.

The United Nations’ humanitarian office said a man and a woman died after a landslide and the collapse of a house in the commune of Fonds-des-Nègres; 834 families, who were already living in houses rendered weak by the August earthquake are now homeless.

“Any mild or low tremors will cause them to collapse,” Chandler said.

On Tuesday, residents of Port-au-Prince were once more shaken when a magnitude 4.5 earthquake was registered northwest of Léogâne by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The response to Haiti’s pleas for recovery and rebuilding has been slow in the international community. A donors’ conference under the leadership of the government of Haiti and the United Nations is currently in the works for next month, where the administration of interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry hopes to receives support from the international community.

A post-disaster needs assessment presented by the Haitian government on Nov. 23 estimated $1.6 billion in damage and losses, which represents 10.9% of GDP for 2019-20. The housing, education and health sectors accounted for 73% of the earthquake-related damage and losses. The costs of sustainable reconstruction and economic recovery were estimated at around $2 billion. The reconstruction plan is still being finalized.

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