The U.S. Geological Survey warns that "high casualties and extensive damage are probable and the disaster is likely widespread."
A 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit southwestern Haiti on the morning of August 14, 2021, at about 8:30 a.m. local time. It was followed by a series of aftershocks, according to Reuters. The calamity was so strong that the impact was felt in neighboring countries as well. The epicenter of the quake was 7.5 miles northeast of Saint-Louis du Sud, reports CBS News, about 78 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
By August 15, the death toll had risen to at least 1,297 [at the time of publication], with rescuers still hoping to find survivors amid the rubble. At least 2,800 people have also been injured in the Caribbean nation, and thousands more have been displaced from their homes which were destroyed by the earthquake, states CBS News.
The U.S. Geological Survey warns that "high casualties and extensive damage are probable and the disaster is likely widespread." The American Red Cross told CNN that there have been reports of "significant damage to homes, roads, and infrastructure."
"The initial information that I have received from Grand'Anse is heart-wrenching," said First Lady Martine Moise of Haiti in a statement. "It hurts my heart for the kids, the mothers, the elderlies, the handicaps, my friends, and all the victims of this earthquake. My brothers and sisters, we have to put our shoulders together to come together to demonstrate our solidarity. It is our togetherness that makes up our strength and resilience. Courage, I will always be by your side.
Les Cayes appears to be one of the most impacted towns. "I saw bodies being pulled out of the rubble, injured and perhaps dead people," Les Cayes resident Jean Marie Simon, 38, said. "I heard cries of pain everywhere I passed through."
BREAKING: The death toll from a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Haiti soared to at least 1,297, as rescuers raced to find survivors amid the rubble ahead of a potential deluge from an approaching tropical storm. https://t.co/mtt6rcMtsP— The Associated Press (@AP) August 15, 2021
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who flew over the region to assess the damage from the calamity, has declared a month-long state of emergency to deal with the impact. "The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble," said Henry, who has been rushing aid to the most affected areas where hospitals are grappling to take care of victims.
"We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people. The needs are enormous. We must take care of the injured and fractured, but also provide food, aid, temporary shelter, and psychological support."
Recovery and treatment will not be easy, given how so many people have been injured. "Many of the patients have open wounds and they have been exposed to not-so-clean elements," says Dr. Inobert Pierre, a pediatrician with the nonprofit Health Equity International. "We anticipate a lot of infections."
Apart from dealing with the earthquake, it is likely that Tropical Storm Grace will affect the nation on Monday into Tuesday, bringing heavy rains and winds, according to CNN Meteorologist Haley Brink. This could further complicate the recovery efforts.
HAITI’S WRECKAGE: Drone footage shows the devastating aftermath of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti on Saturday. The government reported that at least 1,297 people were killed and 2,800 injured. pic.twitter.com/om8AKoOmtn— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 16, 2021
As a helping hand, U.S. President Joe Biden pledged USAID support "to assess the damage and assist efforts to recover and rebuild," and USAID Administrator Samantha Power has been appointed to coordinate with the efforts.
"The United States remains a close and enduring friend to the people of Haiti, and we will be there in the aftermath of this tragedy," President Biden wrote in a statement.
Other countries including Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela also expressed their support for Haiti.
After decades of earthquake engineering research, we need to realize that building collapse is not only scientifically and technically avoidable; it is socially unacceptable. #haitiearthquake pic.twitter.com/VPCru5U1xW— Anastasios Sextos (@asextos) August 15, 2021
This is unfortunately not the first time that disaster has struck Haiti. In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean nation, claiming the lives of 200,000 people, according to BBC.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Richard Pierrin