Port-au-Prince, Aug 14 (EFE).- The number of confirmed deaths following Saturday’s magnitude-7.2 earthquake in southwestern Haiti has increased to 304, the country’s Civil Protection agency said.
Another 1,800 people were hurt and hospitals in the affected areas are being overwhelmed, the agency said.
“The first interventions, carried out by both rescue professionals and members of the population, made it possible to pull many people out of the rubble,” Civil Protection said on Twitter.
Photos and videos shared by Haitians on social media showed residents of affected areas organizing to pull people from the wreckage and render first aid.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry declared a state of emergency hours after the temblor struck the Tiburon peninsula in southwestern Haiti at 8:29 am (12:29 UTC).
The epicenter of the earthquake was 10 km (6 mi) below the surface at a spot 12 km (7.4 mi) northeast of the town of Saint-Louis-du-Sud, according to the United States Geological Survey (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.
“In what is already a challenging time for the people of Haiti, I am saddened by the devastating earthquake,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement, alluding to the July 7 assassination of the Caribbean nation’s head of state, Jovenel Moise.
“I have authorized an immediate US response and named USAID Administrator Samantha Power as the senior US official to coordinate this effort,” Biden said.
Earlier Saturday, the US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance said that it had disaster experts on the ground in Haiti “assessing damage & needs.”
Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez, said that doctors and nurses already in Haiti as a part of Cuban medical mission were helping their Haitian colleagues attend to people hurt in the quake.
Numerous governments in the region, including those of Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, extended offers of assistance.
The Haiti director of Catholic Relief Services, Akim Kikonda, said that the situation in Les Cayes, a city in the affected region, was dire.
“We have information that the public hospital reached maximum capacity due to the number of injured,” he told Efe, adding that the city was facing an “immediate” need for shelters and supplies.
But despite the disaster, the situation in Les Cayes is not “chaotic” and there is no reason to deploy additional police, Kikonda said.
Peter Finlay, the International Committee of the Red Cross delegate in Port-au-Prince, likewise stressed the urgency of getting help to the stricken area.
“They will need everything: food, medicine, heavy equipment for the clearing of wreckage,” he told Efe.
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