Haiti earthquake death toll passes 1,200 as rescuers continue search for survivors

Les Cayes, Haiti - The death toll from a powerful earthquake in southern Haiti has risen to 1,297 people, the country's civil protection authority said Sunday.

A building in Les Cayes, Haiti, damaged by the devastating earthquake that hit on Saturday morning.
A building in Les Cayes, Haiti, damaged by the devastating earthquake that hit on Saturday morning.  © IMAGO / Xinhua

The US Geological Survey declared a red alert after the 7.2-magnitude quake struck Saturday morning about 7 miles from Saint-Louis-du-Sud.

The full extent of the destruction and damage to homes and infrastructure is not yet clear.

Rescue workers and regular citizens in Haiti are racing against an impending tropical storm to pull survivors from the rubble of buildings destroyed by the earthquake.

Interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry has declared a one-month state of emergency in response to the quake.

Search and rescue efforts by the International Red Cross have focused on the area around the particularly affected towns of Jeremie and Les Cayes, and relief supplies for at least 4,500 people were ready.

More trouble could be on the way in the form of Tropical Storm Grace. The US National Hurricane Center said the storm could hit the region on Monday, with fierce winds and heavy rain worsening the situation in the earthquake-hit area and hampering rescue efforts.

A catastrophe adding to the political turmoil

Emergency personnel carry out debris removal, as well as search and rescue work in Les Cayes.
Emergency personnel carry out debris removal, as well as search and rescue work in Les Cayes.  © IMAGO / Agencia EFE

Offers of aid and condolences came pouring in from abroad.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country, the former colonial ruler of the Caribbean nation, "remains at the side of Haiti and its people, and stands ready to support" on Twitter on Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary General Antonio Gueterres, and Pope Francis also expressed their condolences.

The Organisation of American States (OAS), Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, and the United States have offered assistance.

Haiti, considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is still living with the impact of the January 12, 2010 magnitude-7.0 earthquake that killed some 220,000 people and left one million people homeless. Damage from that earthquake, which struck near densely populated Port-au-Prince, was estimated at $8 billion.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) put the epicenter of Saturday's quake, which also triggered smaller aftershocks, on Haiti's Tiburon peninsula, about 78 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince.

The quake was also felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, Dominican newspaper Diario Libre reported. Jamaica, hundreds of miles away, also felt rattled.

Haiti has also been in political turmoil since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July. He was shot dead in a middle-of-the-night attack at his residence by a heavily armed commando force.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Xinhua

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