UPDATE: August 16, 2021
As of Sunday (August 15), the death toll from the devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on Saturday has escalated to 1,297 people. Search and rescue is still underway as first responders look through crumbled buildings and structures during aftershocks and amidst the news that Tropical Depression Grace could potentially hit Haiti. Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection indicated that more than 7,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 5,000 damaged including hospitals, schools, offices and churches.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicts that Grace could bring heavy rain, flooding and landslides as soon as Monday evening, which will only further hamper rescue and recovery efforts.
According to the Associated Press, 5,700 people have been injured while many survivors are still awaiting medical help from overwrought hospitals. Most of those dead and injured are from the southwestern part of the island, some of the island’s poorest sections which have been impacted by the recent presidential assassination, gang violence, and the rise of COVID-19 where vaccinations are not yet readily available.
The U.S.-donated coronavirus vaccines about a month ago through a United Nations program for low-income countries. However, there are approximately 11 million people on the island.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris continue to follow developments and have authorized immediate U.S. response while naming USAID Administrator Samantha Power as the senior U.S. official to coordinate this effort.
Medical workers are doing their best to help from across the region as the hospital in Les Cayes, which was hit badly, is nearly out of space to perform surgeries. --BET Staff
A major earthquake rocked Haiti early Saturday (August 14), causing the collapse of several historical buildings in the southern and western parts of the besieged nation.
The quake registered a 7.2 magnitude, which if verified would make it stronger than the 2010 seismic event that left more than 300,000 people dead, according to the United States Geological Survey.
The Miami Herald reports there were “unconfirmed reports of death, injuries, and panic in cities across the region,” but no numbers or details by noon (ET). The prime minister’s office said that the emergency response has been activated as authorities assess the damage.
"Following the earthquake that caused enormous damage in the South, Grand'Anse and Nippes, I have already mobilized the entire government team to adopt all necessary measures- as a matter of urgency," a tweet from Prime Minister Ariel Henry reads.
Preliminary reports suggest most of the carnage happened in Grand Anse and southern regions of the country near the southwestern peninsula.
"High casualties are probable and the disaster is likely widespread," the USGS reports.
The earthquake was around 7.5 miles northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud and 6.2 miles deep.
NPR reports that people in the capital of Port-au-Prince, about 80 miles to the east of the epicenter, felt the tremor and many rushed into the streets in fear.
According to the Associated Press, Naomi Verneus, a 34-year-old resident of Port-au-Prince, said she was awakened by Saturday's earthquake, which shook her bed.
"I woke up and didn't have time to put my shoes on,” she said. “We lived the 2010 earthquake and all I could do was run. I later remembered my two kids and my mother were still inside. My neighbor went in and told them to get out. We ran to the street.”
Additionally, a tsunami threat had been issued for the region and has now passed.
Haiti is currently in the cone of Tropical Storm Grace, and the storm could have an impact on the area from Monday into Tuesday, CNN reports.
"We're concerned that this earthquake is just one more cirsis on top of what the country is already facing -- including the worsening political stalemate after the president's assassination, COVID and food insecurity," Jean-Wickens Merone, a spokesman with World Vision Haiti, said in a statement.