By Andre Paultre and Sarah Marsh
PUERTO PRINCIPE / HAVANA (Reuters) – A major earthquake hit western Haiti on Saturday, likely causing a high death toll and widespread disaster, said the US geological agency Geological Survey. The quake sent waves across the Caribbean, where people fled their homes for fear they would collapse.
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck 8 km from the town of Petit Trou de Nippes, about 150 km west of the capital Port-au-Prince, at a depth of 10 km, the US agency said.
That makes the earthquake potentially bigger and deeper than the magnitude 7 earthquake that hit Haiti 11 years ago and killed tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people, knocked down buildings and left many people homeless.
Haiti’s Civil Protection Service said on Twitter that there were initial records of probable deaths by its teams.
Images posted on social media – which Reuters was unable to verify at first – show houses and part of a church in a town near Jérémie reduced to rubble.
“In my neighborhood, I heard people screaming. They were running out,” said Port-au-Prince resident Sephora Pierre Louis, adding that she was still in shock. “At least they know they have to leave. In 2010, they didn’t know what to do. People are still on the streets.
The earthquake comes at a time when Haiti is already mired in political, humanitarian and security crises.
The government is in crisis, a month after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, parts of the country are starving and health services are overwhelmed by Covid-19. Access to the southern region, where the earthquake hit, has been limited by gangs that control key areas.
“This country never has a break! Each year of mismanagement didn’t hurt, but the accumulated effects made us vulnerable to everything,” Haitian businessman Marc Alain Boucicault said on Twitter.
“It will take years to fix things and we haven’t even started yet!”
The earthquake was felt even in Cuba and Jamaica, although there were no records of material damage, deaths or injuries there.
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