Haiti Searches For Survivors After Devastating Earthquake Kills Hundreds

Rescuers scrambled to find survivors after a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing at least 304 people and toppled buildings in the disaster-plagued Caribbean nation still reeling from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

The epicenter of the quake, which shook homes and sent terrified locals fleeing for safety as of 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT) on Saturday, was about 100 miles (160 kilometers) by road west of downtown. from the densely populated capital Puerto. -The prince.

Churches, businesses, schools and homes collapsed in the earthquake that trapped hundreds of victims under the rubble and injured at least 1,800, the country’s civil protection agency said.

Rescuers raced against the clock to find survivors, and civil protection tweeted that the efforts of “both professional rescuers and members of the public have led to many people being pulled out of the rubble,” adding that already overloaded hospitals continue to receive injuries.

Hours after the earthquake, the agency announced that the death toll had risen to 304, increasing throughout the day from a first report of 29 deaths.

The initial long earthquake was felt across much of the Caribbean, emanating from the epicenter on the southwestern peninsula of Haiti.

Civil protection said that at least 160 people died in the southern department of the country alone.

“Many houses are destroyed, people are dead and some in the hospital,” Christella Saint Hilaire, 21, who lives near the epicenter, told AFP.

Hospitals in regions hardest hit by the earthquake were already struggling to provide emergency care and at least three were fully booked, according to Jerry Chandler, head of the civil protection agency.

State of emergency

The Health Ministry quickly sent personnel and medicines to the southwest of the peninsula, but their arrival could be hampered by the insecurity that has plagued the poorest country in the Americas for months.

The United States and other nations quickly pledged to support the crisis-ravaged country. US President Joe Biden approved the “immediate” relief efforts and neighboring Haiti, the Dominican Republic, sent 10,000 rations of food and medical equipment.

A medical brigade of 253 Cuban doctors deployed in Haiti was traveling to treat the wounded and adapt a Port-au-Prince hospital so far used for Covid patients, its director said on Cuban television.

In Ecuador, the Quito Fire Department said it was preparing to send a team of 34 people specialized in urban search and rescue. Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Venezuela also offered help, while Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Haitians “can count on Spain’s support to overcome this terrible event.”

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, whose father is Haitian, said she would donate prize money from an upcoming tournament to help the earthquake victims.

“It really hurts to see all the devastation that is happening in Haiti, and I feel like we can’t really take a break,” Osaka wrote on Twitter.

Images circulating on social media showed people frantically trying to drag people out of the ruins of collapsed buildings, while screaming passersby sought safety on the streets outside their homes.

“The houses and the surrounding walls collapsed. The roof of the cathedral collapsed,” Job Joseph, a resident of the city of Jeremie, in the extreme west of Haiti, told AFP.

Severe damage was reported in the city center, which is home to some 200,000 people and consists mainly of residences and single-story buildings.

The damage in the town of Les Cayes appeared to be significant, including the collapse of a multi-story hotel.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who examined the damage by helicopter, declared a state of emergency for a month and called on the nation to “show solidarity” and not panic.

‘People are terrified’

Shortly after the earthquake, the US Geological Survey issued a tsunami warning, but lifted it shortly after.

Jeremie resident Tamas Jean Pierre said the possibility of a tsunami caused parents “to flee the city with their children in arms.”

“People are terrified,” he said.

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January 2010 left much of Port-au-Prince and nearby cities in ruins, killing more than 200,000 and injuring another 300,000.

More than 1.5 million Haitians were left homeless, leaving island authorities and the international humanitarian community with a colossal challenge.

In addition to hundreds of thousands of homes, the earthquake also destroyed administrative buildings and schools, not to mention 60 percent of Haiti’s health system.

The reconstruction of the country’s main hospital remains incomplete, and non-governmental organizations have struggled to make up for the state’s many shortcomings.

The latest earthquake comes just over a month after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated at his home by a team of gunmen, shaking a country already battling poverty, spiraling gang violence and Covid. -19.

(AFP)

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