(Port-au-Prince) A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday morning, leaving at least 304 dead, hundreds injured and missing in the southwest of the island and bringing back terrible memories of the 2010 earthquake.
Posted on Aug 14, 2021 at 9:02 am Updated at 7:51 pm
According to the American Institute of Geophysics (USGS), the earthquake occurred at 8:29 a.m. local time, 12 km from the city of Saint-Louis-du-Sud, which is about 160 km from the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. .
Churches, shops, houses: many buildings collapsed during the violent shock that trapped hundreds of residents under concrete slabs.
Local residents often rush out of the casualties injured in building collapses with little money, an effort welcomed by civil protection.
“The first interventions, carried out by both professional rescuers and members of the community, made it possible to recover many people from the rubble,” they said.
More than 1,800 people were injured in the earthquake and the few hospitals in the affected regions are already fighting for emergency care.
On Saturday afternoon, civil protection director Jerry Chandler told AFP that at least three hospitals in the parishes of Pestel, Corailles and Roseaux were saturated.
The head of government, who flew over the hardest hit areas by helicopter on Saturday afternoon, said that the four departments affected by the disaster had been declared a state of emergency for a month.
Staff and medicines have already been dispatched to the southwestern peninsula by the Ministry of Health, but emergency logistics are threatened by the structural insecurity that has plagued Haiti for months.
For a little more than two kilometers, the only road that connects the capital with the southern half of the country crosses the poor district of Martissant, which has been completely under the control of armed gangs since the beginning of June and has prevented freedom of movement.
“We all know we have a problem with Martissant. We have decided that this path is permeable, which means that all aid must be able to pass, ”said Prime Minister Ariel Henry during a press conference on Saturday evening.
“The police and the FAD’H (Armed Forces of Haiti, editor’s note) are being mobilized and other means are being mobilized so that this help, which we want to give our brothers and sisters in difficulty, can arrive,” added the head of government without giving further explanations.
On the south coast in Cayes, Haiti’s third largest city, a multi-story hotel called Le Manguier collapsed completely, trapping residents under concrete slabs.
The lifeless body of the former Haitian Senator Gabriel Fortuné, owner of the hotel, was recovered from the rubble, according to witness statements. His death was confirmed by the Prime Minister.
The long shock was felt across the country and property damage was recorded in several cities on the island’s southwestern peninsula, witnesses interviewed by AFP reported.
With more than 200,000 inhabitants, the Jérémie agglomeration in the city center suffered considerable damage, mainly consisting of old one-story houses.
“The roof of the cathedral has collapsed,” said Job Joseph, a resident of Jeremiah. “The main road is closed […] This is where all of the city’s economic activity takes place ”.
“The people are desperate, the parents are in their arms with their children and are leaving the city because there are rumors of a tsunami,” said Tamas Jean Pierre.
A tsunami warning was indeed issued by the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency after the earthquake before it was quickly lifted.
The city of Jeremiah, also known as the city of poets, is relatively remote from the country as the national road that crosses the peninsula is not yet completed.
“I was in my house when it started shaking, I was near a window and saw it all fall,” Christella Saint Hilaire, 21, who lives in the town of L’Asile near the epicenter, told AFP des Earthquake.
“A piece of wall fell on my back, but I’m not too hurt,” the young woman continued. “Several houses have collapsed completely. “
The trauma of the 2010 earthquake
On videos shared online, residents filmed the ruins of various concrete buildings, including a church where a ceremony apparently took place on Saturday morning in the town of Les Anglais, 200 km southwest of Port-au-Prince.
The poorest country in America remembers the January 12th 2010 earthquake that devastated the capital and several provincial cities.
Over 200,000 people were killed and over 300,000 others injured in the disaster.
More than one and a half million Haitians were then left homeless, posing the daunting challenge of rebuilding a country with no land registry or building regulations for the authorities and the international humanitarian community.
According to Frantz Duval, editor of the Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste, “the coordination of the relief efforts is still ongoing,” he said on Twitter.
Thomas Lalime, columnist for Le Nouvelliste newspaper, regrets the few measures that have been taken since the earthquake 10 years ago. “We are just as vulnerable as we were in 2010, if not more vulnerable,” he said.
Without mastering this challenge of reconstruction, Haiti, which is also regularly hit by hurricanes, has plunged into an acute socio-political crisis in 10 years.
The earthquake struck more than a month after President Jovenel Moïse’s death, plunging the country into political chaos, and aid agencies said the earthquake would worsen suffering.
“We are concerned that this earthquake is just another crisis the country is already facing, including the deepening political stalemate following the president’s assassination, COVID-19 and food insecurity,” said Jean-Wickens Merone, spokesman for World Vision Haiti.
Catholic priest Fredy Elie told The Associated Press that access to the area is being blocked by criminal gangs and is asking for help.
“It is time to lead the way for those who want to help. You need the help of all of us, ”he said.
Reactions in Quebec
The response from liberal leader Dominique Anglade, who lost both parents in the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, was almost immediate.
“The horror strikes. I am wholeheartedly with the Haitians in the south of the country, “said the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) in a tweet on the social network Twitter on Saturday morning.
A little later, when she arrived at the youth congress of the PLQ Youth Commission in Trois-Rivières, the opposition leader again expressed her concern about the Haitians during a press conference in the National Assembly.
“My thoughts are with all of the people over there who are going through extremely difficult times and the entire Haitian community in Quebec,” recalls Ms. Anglade.
Justin Trudeau addressed the Haitian people early Saturday afternoon. “We are ready to help where we can. “
For his part, François Legault expressed his “condolences to the families of the victims” on Twitter. “My thoughts are with the Haitian people who have not suffered such tragedy,” the prime minister said in a tweet.
Quebec’s Minister of International Relations, Nadine Girault, whose parents are from Haiti, also responded on Twitter by saying that she is “wholeheartedly connected to Haiti and the Haitian community of Quebec.”
In the afternoon, the leader of the Québécois bloc, Yves-François Blanchet, also shared his grief on social networks. “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, ”he wrote.
Former Governor of Canada Michaëlle Jean, herself from Port-au-Prince, spoke of her strong emotions.
“Haiti suffers from extreme insecurity: banditry, kidnappings, assassinations, attacks, political catastrophe, food shortages, absolute poverty and another earthquake! Sorrow! “She started on Twitter.
Montreal Mayoress Valérie Plante was one of the first to express her support for the Haitian people on her Twitter account.
“Heavy memories of 2010. From the bottom of my heart to the local people and the Montrealers of Haitian origin. My team and I will be closely monitoring the situation, ”she wrote.
The mayor then said that Montreal would support the country financially with the Red Cross.
Notice to travelers
The Canadian government issued a Canadian travel warning on Saturday morning.
“Damage to the infrastructure has been reported. There is a tsunami warning on some coasts of the country. Aftershocks could occur and essential services could be interrupted, ”the statement said.
“If you are in an affected area, follow instructions from local authorities and check the local media regularly to keep up to date with the situation. “
With Florence Morin-Martel, La Presse, The Canadian Press, and Associated Press