Port-au-Prince/Washington, Aug 14 (EFE).- At least 29 people have died as a result of the magnitude-7.2 earthquake that rocked Haiti early Saturday, the Civil Protection Service said, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) warned of the likelihood of “high casualties.”
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said that he was en route to the Tiburon peninsula, in the southwest of the country, where the temblor struck at 8:29 am (12:29 UTC).
“I have already mobilized the entire government team to adopt all necessary measures as a matter of urgency,” he wrote on Twitter, while the White House said that President Joe Biden had authorized an “immediate response” by the US government.
Samantha Power, head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), will coordinate the response, the White House said.
Ahead of the announcement from Washington, USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance said that it had disaster experts on the ground “assessing damage & needs.”
The epicenter of the quake was 10 km (6 mi) below the surface at a spot 12 km (7.4 mi) northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud, according to the USGS.
Efe witnessed people running from buildings in Port-au-Prince as the ground shook and the quake was felt across the entire island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, as well as most of Jamaica and the eastern half of Cuba.
A tsunami warning issued by the US National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration for Port-au-Prince and other coastal areas of Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake was later canceled.
Photos and videos shared by Haitians on social media showed residents of affected areas organizing to pull people from the rubble and render first aid.
The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is ill-equipped to deal with a natural disaster on this scale and the situation is set to become more difficult early next week when Tropical Storm Grace is expected to bring winds and heavy rains to Hispaniola.
As many as 300,000 people were killed in January 2010 when a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck the densely populated region around the capital. Another 300,000 people were injured and 1.5 million were displaced. EFE