dpatopbilder – A firefighter searches for survivors between the rubble of a house destroyed by an earthquake. The 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti on August 14, 2021. Photo: Joseph Odelyn / AP / dpa
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) expressed her “deeply felt condolences” to the people. «My special condolences go to the families of the victims and all those who have lost their belongings. I wish the injured a quick recovery ”, it said in a message on Sunday.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said that he was deeply shocked to learn of the tragic loss of life and injuries. The United Nations supported the government’s efforts to help those affected by the earthquake. Pope Francis also expressed sympathy: “I would like to express my closeness to these lovable residents who were hit so hard by the earthquake,” said the head of the Catholic Church after the traditional Angelus prayer in Rome on Sunday. The earthquake, the strength of which the US agency USGS stated to be 7.2, occurred on Saturday morning at around 8:30 a.m. near the municipality of Saint-Louis-du-Sud in southern Haiti at a depth of around ten kilometers. Numerous buildings were destroyed and further casualties were feared. In the hours after the accident, rescue workers and citizens rescued many people from the rubble. Several aftershocks shook the country over the weekend, which, according to the USGS, reached strengths of up to 5.8.
The events bring back memories of the devastating earthquake in 2010: At that time, more than 220,000 people were killed, more than 300,000 were injured and over a million people lost their homes.
«The streets are filled with screams. The people are looking for relatives, resources, medical help, water, “Abiade Lozama, head of the Episcopal Church in the particularly affected city of Les Cayes, told the New York Times. It will take days to assess the exact damage, said the head of the children’s aid organization Save the Children in Haiti, Leila Bourahla, the paper and added: “It is clear that this is a massive humanitarian emergency.”
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) sent a team of experts. Search and rescue work by the International Red Cross focused on the area around the particularly affected cities of Jérémie and Les Cayes. The organization also sent emergency specialists.
Interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he visited the Grand ‘Anse Department and flew over Les Cayes to get an idea of the extent of the damage. He declared a month-long emergency. The Organization of American States (OAS), Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Canada and the USA, among others, offered help. “The United States remains a close and constant friend to the Haitian people, and we will be there after this tragedy,” said US President Joe Biden.
Japan’s tennis star Naomi Osaka wants to donate her prize money from the WTA tournament in Cincinnati to those affected by the earthquake. “It hurts to see all the damage done to Haiti. It feels like we’re not getting any breathing space, ”wrote the world number two on Twitter. Osaka’s father is from Haiti.
The federal government called for the affected areas in the southwest of the island state to be avoided. «Numerous deaths and injuries as well as severe damage to buildings and infrastructure must be expected. There are still strong aftershocks », warned the Foreign Office.
Haiti is repeatedly hit by major earthquakes. “The country lies on the edge of a large tectonic plate, the Caribbean plate,” said Marco Bohnhoff from the Potsdam Geo Research Center of the German Press Agency. “The problem is that the quake almost reached the surface,” he says. On average, the earthquake moved the Caribbean plate by about 1.5 meters – “mainly to the side, but with a vertical component”.
The damage caused by earthquakes also depends on population density. The center of the equally strong, devastating earthquake of 2010 was under the capital Port-au-Prince – a metropolitan area with more than two million inhabitants. The current quake affected Les Cayes, a large city with an estimated 90,000 inhabitants, around 35 kilometers from the epicenter.
The Caribbean state threatens further hardship: The tropical storm “Grace” could hit the region on Monday, as the US National Hurricane Center announced. Violent winds and heavy rain could hit Haiti, worsening the situation in the earthquake-hit area and hampering rescue efforts.