After a devastating 7.2-magnitude Earthquake Rocked Haiti Saturday morning, the death toll has risen to 700 people, with more than 2,800 injured, the beleaguered country now faces the threat of Tropical Storm Grace, which could expose an already vulnerable population to a double impact in a matter of days.
The number of deaths and injuries has been verified by Haiti’s Civil Protection Service, which also stated that the numbers are anticipated to grow. According to initial estimates, more than 700 structures have fallen, including hospitals and schools, with at least 3,778 houses demolished and major infrastructure and road damage.
Between the 16th and 17th of August, Hurricane Grace is expected to make landfall in Haiti.
“Not only will the people of Haiti have to cope with this earthquake and its aftershocks, but they will also have to deal with this coming tropical cyclone,” said USGS geophysicist William Barnhart of the Earthquake Hazards Program. “It’s a terrible scenario,” she says. Thousands of people might die as a result of the tragedy, according to Barnhart.
According to the USGS, the earthquake struck around 5 miles north of Petit Trou de Nippes, Haiti, roughly 90 miles north of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Concerns have also been raised that the earthquake might increase the island’s COVID-19 infection rate if displaced residents are forced to live in close quarters.
According to The Associated Press, Haiti’s head of civil protection, Jerry Chandler, stated that teams will be deployed to the region for search and rescue efforts.
Given the scale of the earthquake, the Haitian government “believes heavy deaths are likely,” according to Bocchit Edmond, the country’s ambassador to the United States, in a statement released Saturday afternoon.
“Emergency actions are ongoing, and damages are being analyzed,” Edmond said, adding that “widespread destruction” had occurred.
The embassy is assisting in the coordination of the US and Haitian governments’ response operations.
The earthquake had about the same magnitude and depth as the 2010 quake, and it occurred along the same fault line — the Enriquillo Plantain Garden — although it occurred farther west and in a less-populated area.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry has mobilized government resources to assist victims in the impacted areas and has proclaimed a one-month state of emergency across the country. He stated at a news conference that he would not seek foreign assistance until officials had assessed the magnitude of the damage.
“It will be quite terrible, but not nearly as awful as 2010, simply because Port-au-Prince is farther away from this one and so experienced less shaking this time,” said earthquake expert Dr. Lucy Jones.
According to her, around 650,000 individuals were subjected to level VII shaking, which the USGS characterizes as “extremely severe” and powerful enough to topple poorly constructed structures.
However, many of the structures that may have been harmed by this quake were damaged by the earthquake 11 years ago or Hurricane Matthew in 2016, thus fewer reports of severe damage aren’t totally surprising, according to Jones.
Community Organized Relief Effort and other organizations are attempting to vaccinate communities in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Disaster specialists from the United States Agency for International Development are already on the ground in Haiti analyzing damage and humanitarian needs, according to the agency.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were briefed on the earthquake Saturday morning by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The president approved an urgent U.S. reaction and appointed Samantha Power, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, as the senior U.S. official in charge of coordination.
“I am heartbroken by the catastrophic earthquake that struck Saint-Louis du Sud, Haiti this morning, in what is already a difficult moment for the people of Haiti,” Biden said in a statement. “We extend our heartfelt sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones or whose homes and businesses have been damaged.”
“Through USAID, we’re assisting efforts to evaluate the damage and recover those who have been harmed and those who must now rebuild,” he added. “The US remains a loyal and enduring ally of the Haitian people, and we will be there in the aftermath of a terrible catastrophe.”
On Saturday evening, Power spoke with Henry, who is now the interim president of Haiti in the aftermath of Jovenel Moise’s killing, on how USAID might help the country. The agency had previously stated that a disaster assistance response team had been dispatched to the island.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said on Sunday morning that “It has “deployed an urban search and rescue team to join our #Haiti earthquake disaster response team” at the request of Haiti’s government. This 65-person deployment will bring 52,000 pounds of specialist tools, equipment, and medical supplies to help in search and rescue efforts.”
The earthquake could not have come at a worse time for Haiti, which is still reeling from Mose’s assassination on July 7 and escalating gang violence, which has resulted in the internal displacement of thousands of people in the country, according to a June UNICEF report, greatly worsening an already precarious humanitarian situation, according to the Associated Press.
While a recent rise in COVID-19 cases has subsided, the possibility for thousands of people to be displaced has created ideal circumstances for a COVID-19 outbreak, possibly overloading an already weakened and overburdened health system that will also have to treat those injured in the earthquake.
Meanwhile, some celebrities and businesses are donating to Haiti’s relief efforts.
Naomi Osaka, a tennis player, said on Twitter that she will contribute her prize money to Haiti’s relief efforts. She wrote, “Really heartbreaking to watch all the destruction that’s going on.”
In a Sunday morning tweet, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company will donate to “help relief and recovery efforts in the impacted communities.”
José Andrés, a celebrity chef, tweeted on Sunday that he and his charity, World Central Kitchen, had been distributing meals in Haiti since yesterday.