A damaged church in Les Cayes, Haiti. Photo: Delot Jean / AP / dpa
The quake occurred around 8:30 a.m. about 125 kilometers west of the capital Port-au-Prince at a depth of about ten kilometers. It brings back memories of the devastating earthquake in 2010 that claimed more than 200,000 lives. Interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry spoke of a “dramatic” situation and called for solidarity.
According to reports, 17 people were killed in the southwest Grand-Anse department and 12 in the Sud department. Among the dead was former Senator Jean Gabriel Fortuné, who, according to information from the online portal “Gazette Haiti”, was buried under the rubble of his hotel in the city of Cayes. Two children aged seven and nine were killed in the city of Aquinas.
Many buildings were destroyed, as can be seen on photos and videos on social networks. People are buried under the rubble, an eyewitness from Les Cayes, one of the largest cities in the country, told the Haiti Press Network. According to the “Gazette Haiti”, residents of the Nippes department, in which the epicenter of the quake was located, sent an SOS call to the authorities because the hospitals were overloaded.
Interim Prime Minister Henry described the situation on Twitter as “dramatic” and announced that the government would declare a state of emergency. He called on all Haitians to a “spirit of solidarity and commitment”.
The US National Weather Service (NOAA) initially issued a tsunami warning after the quake – but canceled it a short time later. The US agency USGS declared a red alert with a view to possible fatalities: This means that a high number of victims is possible. It drew parallels to the devastating earthquake of 2010, which had reached a magnitude of 7.0. This happened only around 75 kilometers east on the same peninsula.
In the further course of Saturday, Haiti was shaken by several aftershocks, which, according to the USGS, reached strengths of up to 5.2. The US Agency for Development Cooperation (USAID) wrote on Twitter that disaster experts were on site to assess the damage.
The country director of Welthungerhilfe for Haiti, Annalisa Lombardo, told the German press agency that they were trying to find out how many people were affected. It is clear that there is significant damage to buildings. In the capital Port-au-Prince, where Lombardo was staying, the walls of her house would have shaken a lot. The earthquake did not cause any major damage in the capital.
Lombardo expected that there would also be problems with the care of the victims because of the infrastructure. The way out of Port-au-Prince leads through an area that is controlled by gangs. These would shoot at passing cars. Apparently a bridge that was used to supply people was also damaged.
The epicenter of the 2010 earthquake was near the densely populated capital Port-au-Prince. Around 222,000 people died and more than 300,000 were injured at the time. More than a million people lost their homes. The damage from the quake was estimated at $ 8 billion. Reconstruction got off to a slow start, also due to the political instability.
The desperately poor Caribbean state of Haiti is repeatedly hit by severe earthquakes. Most recently, a political crisis plunged the country further into chaos. Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July. He was ambushed and shot dead by a heavily armed commando at his residence.