A massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said, raising fears of destruction almost like the devastating 2010 quake that shattered the country. At least 304 people have died and quite 1,800 were injured, consistent with Haiti’s civil protection service. The USGS predicts the price could reach the thousands. “It seems like it’s really bad,” USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso told NPR. “There might be tons of casualties,” Caruso said Saturday’s quake is on par with the 2010 quake due to its similar magnitude and since it occurred along an equivalent line.
A 7.0-magnitude quake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, leaving an estimated 220,000 dead, some 1.5 million people displaced and about 300,000 injured. Ariel Henry, Haiti’s new prime minister, during a translated tweet extended his sympathies “to the oldsters of the victims of this violent earthquake which caused several losses of human and material lives in several geographical departments of the country.” Henry said he will declare a state of emergency for one month because the country assesses the damage from the disaster and sends teams to the world for search and rescue missions. President Biden has authorized an instantaneous U.S. response and named Samantha Power, the U.S. AID administrator, to coordinate the trouble, a White House official said.
The epicenter of the earthquake was 12 kilometers, or 7.5 miles, northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud and 10 kilometers deep, consistent with the USGS. It struck five miles from the town of Petit-Trou-de-Nippes within the western part of the country, the survey said. The USGS put the earthquake in its “red alert” category. “High casualties and extensive damage are probable and therefore the disaster is probably going widespread. Past red alerts have required a national or international response,” the USGS said. Two major cities, Les Cayes and Jeremie, are severely affected, Port-au-Prince journalist Harold Isaac told NPR’s Scott Simon on Weekend Edition. The quake comes amid unrest within the country following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last month.
“The whole crisis that Haiti has been browsing, especially within a previous couple of months, the death of the president through assassination, the country was never really able to face yet one more earthquake of such a magnitude and with such damages,” Isaac says. “It’s indeed yet one more crisis, a serious one for the new government, that’s also very ailing because it is,” Isaac said. Cara Buck, acting country director for Mercy Corps, told NPR’s Don Gonyea on All Things Considered that she’s worried about COVID-19 cases, food insecurity, poverty, and displacement. “The ability of the govt to reply is certainly in question,” Buck says.
Worse, the region is doubly threatened by another natural disaster — Tropical Storm Grace could hit early next week as Haitians are still reeling from the earthquake. finishes up to 45 mph and 3-6 inches of rainfall are projected, consistent with the National Hurricane Center. Tropical Depression Fred, which had been classified as a tropical storm earlier, could also regain strength, consistent with the National Hurricane Center. People within the capital of Port-au-Prince, about 80 miles to the east of the epicenter, felt the tremor, and lots of rushed into the streets in fear.
Buck, who is in Port-au-Prince, said that she was jolted out of bed by the earthquake and felt like her building was sinking into the water. Henry, the prime minister, appealed on Twitter “to the spirit of solidarity and commitment of all Haitians, so as to unite to face this dramatic situation that we are currently experiencing. Unity is strength.”