Sunday, 7 Aug 2022

Haiti earthquake: Death toll jumps to 724 as rescuers search rubble for survivors

The death toll from the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti has risen to at least 724, officials have said.

Rescue workers have been searching frantically to find survivors buried under buildings after Saturday’s deadly tremor, which came amid a tropical storm.

The 7.2-magnitude quake struck the southwestern part of the impoverished nation, demolishing hundreds of homes and buildings.

Schools, hospitals, hotels and churches have all been badly damaged and destroyed, while the walls of a prison were smashed open by the violent shudders.

Aftershocks could be felt throughout the day and night, with the island experiencing six stronger than magnitude 5 and more above 4 by early Sunday.

The updated number of fatalities from Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection follows a previous count of 304 dead.

The office’s director, Jerry Chandler, said rescuers are continuing to search for possible survivors under the rubble.

He said a partial survey of structural damage found at least 860 homes were destroyed and more than 700 damaged.

“We need to show a lot of solidarity with the emergency,” Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry said.

He said aid was being rushed to areas where towns were destroyed and hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

The prime minister declared a one-month state of emergency for the whole country.

“The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” said Mr Henry.

“We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.”

Rescue efforts will be frustrated by the arrival of Tropical Storm Grace, which is set to lash the island nation with heavy rainfall on Monday.

The US National Hurricane Center also warned of the possibility of flash flooding.

Reports of overwhelmed hospitals come as the nation struggles to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The 11-million strong country received its first batch of US-donated COVID-19 vaccines last month.

Haiti is still rebuilding from a previous major quake 11 years ago and was recovering from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July.

US President Joe Biden has authorised an immediate response and named USAID administrator Samantha Power to oversee the US relief effort.

Ms Power said the US has sent vital supplies and deployed a 65-person urban search-and-rescue team with specialised equipment.

Mr Biden said USAID would help to assess damage and assist in rebuilding and called the US a “close and enduring friend to the people of Haiti.”

Argentina and Chile have also said they will send help.

Some Haitians who remember the aftermath of the earthquake that struck in 2010 spent Saturday night sleeping in the streets.

That tremor struck closer to the capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed up to 300,000 people.

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