NAfter the severe earthquake in southwest Haiti, the death toll rose to at least 227. Hundreds more people are still missing or injured, the civil defense announced on Saturday. According to the US earthquake monitoring station USGS, the tremor with a magnitude of 7.2 shook the country in the morning (local time), the epicenter was about 160 kilometers southwest of the densely populated capital Port-au-Prince. Among the dead was the 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.
The US agency USGS called a red alert on Saturday with a view to possible fatalities. She also referred to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. The current quake shook the same peninsula in Haiti. The 2010 earthquake caused significant damage in the city of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding regions. At that time, more than 200,000 people died as a result of the disaster.
The US authorities also referred to a strong earthquake that occurred on Saturday off the south coast of the US state of Alaska. It had shaken the region with a magnitude of 6.9. “Despite the temporal correspondence between these two earthquakes, the great distance between these two events makes a causal relationship unlikely,” the agency wrote.
A tsunami warning was lifted for Haiti. The US National Weather Service (NOAA) advised people on Saturday to remain cautious. In the coastal areas near the earthquake, there could still be minor fluctuations in sea level of up to 30 centimeters, it said.
According to official information, the quake occurred around 12 kilometers from the municipality of Saint-Louis-du-Sud at a depth of around ten kilometers. Numerous houses are reported to have been destroyed by the quake. The exact extent of the damage was initially unclear.
Meanwhile, the United States has promised the Caribbean state quick aid. “Our experts are already on site to assess damage and needs,” wrote the head of the US agency for development cooperation and emergency aid USAID, Samantha Powers, on Twitter on Saturday. One now wants to react quickly. US President Joe Biden had been informed of the situation in Haiti and asked that USAID coordinate the US response.
The damage caused by the 2010 quake was estimated at 8 billion US dollars (6.2 billion euros). Reconstruction got off to a slow start, also due to the political instability. Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July. He was ambushed and shot dead by a heavily armed commando at his residence.