Hundreds killed in massive earthquake wreaking havoc in Haiti

At least 304 people were killed and hundreds injured and missing after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday, and Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he was sending aid to areas where cities were destroyed and hospitals were overwhelmed. with incoming patients.

The earthquake’s epicenter was about 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of the capital Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and widespread damage was reported.

Haiti’s civil protection agency said the death toll stood at 304 and search teams would be dispatched to the area. Rescuers and bystanders were able to pull many people out of the rubble to safety, the agency said Saturday afternoon on Twitter. He said injured people were still being taken to hospitals.

The epicenter of the earthquake, which shook homes and sent people fighting for protection, was about 160 kilometers (100 miles) by road from the center of the densely populated capital Port-au-Prince.

“Many houses are destroyed, people dead and some in the hospital,” Christella Saint Hilaire, who lives near the epicenter, told AFP. “Everyone is on the street now and the blows keep coming.”

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry declared a one-month state of emergency for the entire country and said he will not request international aid until the extent of the damage is known. He said that some cities were almost completely razed and that the government had people in the coastal town of Les Cayes to help plan and coordinate the response.

“The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” he said. “We have learned that local hospitals, particularly the one in Les Cayes, are overwhelmed by injured and fractured people.”

He said the International Red Cross and hospitals in unaffected areas were helping to treat the wounded and called on Haitians to drive.

The long initial shock was felt across much of the Caribbean. It damaged schools and homes in Haiti’s southwestern peninsula, according to eyewitness images.

Residents shared images on social media of the ruins of concrete buildings, including a church where a ceremony was apparently taking place on Saturday in the southwestern town of Les Anglais.

The USGS issued a tsunami warning, saying waves of up to three meters (nearly 10 feet) were possible along the coast of Haiti, but it soon lifted the warning.

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January 2010 transformed much of Port-au-Prince and nearby cities into dusty 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 a country that lacks a property registry or building codes.

Incomplete reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake

The earthquake destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, as well as 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.

Police say they have arrested 44 people in connection with the killing, including 12 Haitian police officers, 18 Colombians who were allegedly part of the commando team and two Americans of Haitian descent.

The head of Moise’s security detachment is among those arrested in connection with the plot allegedly organized by a group of Haitians with ties to abroad.

Police have issued wanted notices for several other individuals, including a judge of Haiti’s highest court, a former senator and a businessman.

Moise had been ruling the impoverished and disaster-plagued nation by fiat, as gang violence soared and Covid-19 spread.

( Jowhar with AFP, AP)

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