(Montreal and Jacmel, Haiti) When everything started to shake on Saturday, Sabrina Bellefleur threw herself on the ground to protect herself. As she left her home, she was dismayed to see that a crowd had gathered in the street because of the collapsed houses and buildings. “We are in shock in the city of Les Cayes,” she said, given the strength of the earthquake.
Posted on Aug 14, 2021 at 9:02 am Updated Aug 15, 2021 at 12:23 pm
Florence Morin-Martel La Presse
Étienne Côté-Paluck Special collaboration
In Cayes, the hardest hit city in Haiti, the Haitian civil protection department reports 160 deaths. The 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck in the morning in the south of the country. According to the American Institute of Geophysics (USGS), the epicenter is 12 km from the city of Saint-Louis-du-Sud.
Near Aquinas, Gédéon Delva left his room in disaster when the tremors began. Outside he saw the “enormous” devastation, including “broken houses and others destroyed”. “The situation is very tense on the streets,” added the journalist for the Haiti Gazette.
More than 1,800 people were injured, many in remote areas where some roads are blocked by debris. Work was also carried out on Saturday evening to clear the road between Les Cayes and the town of Jérémie in the west after a landslide.
Hundreds of people were stranded under concrete slabs after churches, shops and houses collapsed in cities in the south of the country. The civil defense praised the efforts of the local residents to get the others out of the rubble. Among the victims, the former Haitian Senator Gabriel Fortuné was killed in Les Cayes when the Hotel Le Manguier was destroyed by the earthquake.
In Jérémie, a city with over 200,000 inhabitants, the roof of the cathedral collapsed. “The main road is closed,” Job Joseph, a local resident, told AFP. This is where all of the city’s economic activity takes place. “People are desperate, parents are in their arms with their children and are leaving the city because there are rumors of a tsunami,” another witness, Tamas Jean Pierre, told AFP. The tsunami warning launched by the National Oceanic Agency was then lifted.
Given the scale of the disaster, Prime Minister Ariel Henry declared a “one month state of emergency”. He said during a press conference that he would wait to see the extent of the damage before seeking international help.
The need is enormous. We have to take care of the injured, but also provide food, help, shelter and psychological support.
Ariel Henry, Prime Minister of Haiti
Sabrina Bellefleur regrets that the hospital in the city of Cayes is now overwhelmed. “It’s an SOS, we need doctors,” she adds. This is also the case in the other affected cities. “We can’t make the bandages either [dans l’hôpital de la région] “Kenson Bony, mayor of the small town of Pestel, started with emotion on a radio station in Port-au-Prince.
The Ministry of Health sent staff and directed medicines to the south-west of the country. But since the beginning of June, armed groups have been controlling the poor district of Martissant, through which the only road that connects Port-au-Prince with this region runs.
“We all know we have a problem with Martissant,” said Prime Minister Ariel Henry at a press conference on Saturday evening. We have decided that this path is permeable, that is, that all help must be able to pass. ”
Several minor aftershocks were reported across the country on Saturday for most of the day, but no property damage was reported in Port-au-Prince.
“It was shaking a lot where I am [à Port-au-Prince], tells La Presse Violin Thélusmas, videographer and producer. It’s like living January 12th again, ”she recalls, referring to the powerful 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and injured over 300,000 others. The disaster then spared the south of the country.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter that the people affected by the disaster are in the minds of Canadians. “We are wholeheartedly with those who have lost loved and hurt people, and we are ready to help in any way we can,” he wrote.
US President Joe Biden said on Twitter that he was “saddened by the devastating earthquake”. He said the government is working with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support efforts to assess the damage and then rebuild it.
Shock wave to Montreal
Saturday’s shock wave had an impact as far as Montreal. Thomas Lalime says he called his loved ones as soon as he heard the news “to find out if they were still alive or affected”. His in-laws, who live in the south, are safe, confirms the Quebec-based economist and columnist for the Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste.
Thomas Lalime regrets the few measures that have been taken in recent years to prepare for such a disaster. “Unfortunately, we can say that we didn’t learn too much after the terrible experience of January 12, 2010,” he argues.
With the deterioration in living conditions by 10 years, the residents are all the more vulnerable, according to the economist. Not to mention political crises on top of natural disasters.
Remember that on July 7th, President Jovenel Moïse was murdered by an armed squad outside his residence. Investigations into the circumstances surrounding this attack are ongoing.
The political class “wholeheartedly” with the Haitians
Everyone affected by the devastating earthquake in Haiti is on the minds of Canadians. We wholeheartedly go to those who have lost loved ones and injured people and are ready to help where we can.
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
My thoughts are with the Haitian people who have not suffered such tragedy. Quebec is with you. My condolences to the families of the victims.
François Legault, Prime Minister of Quebec
Rebecca and I think [au peuple d’Haïti et prions pour lui].
Erin O’Toole, Chair of the Conservative Party of Canada
Fate never ceases to meet our sisters and brothers in Haiti. May our thoughts and our solidarity support the courage of this great, tried and tested people.
Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Québécois Bloc
The devastation caused by the Haiti earthquake is heartbreaking. I have all affection for the families affected by this tragedy. My thoughts are with you.
Jagmeet Singh, Chairman of the New Democratic Party
Horror strikes. I am with all my heart with the Haitians in the south of the country.
Dominique Anglade, leader of the Quebec Liberal Party
In solidarity with the Haitian people after the terrible earthquake this morning, Montreal will contribute financially to international efforts. We are in contact with the [Croix-Rouge] Organize emergency aid.
Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal
While times are already difficult for the people of Haiti, I am saddened by the devastating earthquake that struck Saint-Louis-du-Sud, Haiti. [samedi] Tomorrow. with [l’Agence des États-Unis pour le développement international], we support the damage assessment efforts and the reconstruction efforts.
Joe Biden, President of the United States