7.2-magnitude earthquake hits Haiti; more than 300 dead thumbnail

7.2-magnitude earthquake hits Haiti; more than 300 dead

A view of the damage caused by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti Saturday. Photo by Ralph Tedy Erol/EPA-EFE

A view of the damage caused by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti Saturday. Photo by Ralph Tedy Erol/EPA-EFE

Aug. 14 (UPI) — A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti early Saturday, leaving more than 300 dead and hundreds of others wounded or missing, local officials said.

The quake’s death toll rose to 304, Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection said in an update, including 160 in the southern part of the country and 100 in the Grand’Anse department on its far eastern tip.

More than 1,800 are hospitalized with injuries in the three most affected departments, officials said.

The earthquake was located about 7.5 miles northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud and was about 6.2 miles deep, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS issued a “red alert” and warned that fatalities could reach thousands more.

“High casualties and extensive damage are probable and disaster is likely widespread,” the USGS said.

A 5.2-magnitude aftershock occurred about 12 miles west-northwest of Cavaillon, Haiti.

“I ran out [from home] with my brother,” Former Haiti Prime Minister Rosny Smarth, who lives in Cavaillion, told the Miami Herald. “A lot of homes in Cavaillon have been destroyed.”

In Les Anglais, which is part of the coastal city of Jeremie, images on social media showed flattened homes and a Catholic cathedral turned to rubble.

The coastal cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie reported major devastation, according to The New York Times, with doctors saying the main hospitals in the cities had been overwhelmed.

Based on reports from hospitals and clinics in Les Cayes, Dr. James Pierre said at least 80 people were killed and 120 injured in the quake, adding that basic supplies were needed at the Hospital Immaculee Conception, where he works in as a surgeon.

Former Les Cayes Mayor Gabriel Fortuné was among those killed as the hotel he owned collapsed amid the quake, a local journalist told the Times.

Tropical Storm Grace is expected to bring tropical storm-force winds and heavy rains to the region that could cause flash flooding Monday into Tuesday, CNN reported.

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry said the government would declare a state of emergency.

“Following the earthquake which caused enormous damage in the South, Grand’Anse and Nippes, I have already mobilized the entire government team to urgently adopt all necessary measures,” Henry said in a Twitter post.

The United State Agency for International Development said disaster experts are also “on the ground assessing damage and needs.”

The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center reported that a tsunami is not expected for the region.

Meanwhile, the impoverished Caribbean country is still recovering from the disastrous 7-magnitude quake that hit on Jan. 12, 2010, killing at least 100,000 people, and crippling its already-strained infrastructure.

The country has also been grappling with political unrest in the aftermath of the assassination of its President Jovenel Moise, 53, on July 7, by gunmen in his home in Port-au-Prince.

Moise was laid to rest on July 23. He had ruled the country by decree since early last year, refusing to hold parliamentary elections slated for January 2020, and summarily dismissing all of the country’s elected mayors in July 2020, prompting protests.

Haitian authorities have arrested more than two dozen people they suspect were involved in the assassination, including at least two American citizens.

“We’re concerned that this earthquake is just one more crisis on top of what the country is already facing–including the worsening political stalemate after the president’s assassination, COVID and food insecurity,” Jean-Wikens Merone, a spokesman for World Vison Haiti, a nongovernmental organization that has provided emergency relief supplies in other disasters, including the 2010 earthquake, said in a statement to CNN.