Updated August 14, 2021 at 4:05 PM ET A massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said, raising fears of destruction similar to the devastating 2010 quake that shattered the country. At least 227 deaths have been reported, according to Haiti’s civil protection service. The USGS predicts the death
Updated August 14, 2021 at 4:05 PM ET
A massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said, raising fears of destruction similar to the devastating 2010 quake that shattered the country.
At least 227 deaths have been reported, according to Haiti’s civil protection service. The USGS predicts the death toll could reach into the thousands.
USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso told NPR that Saturday’s quake is on par with the 2010 quake, because of its similar magnitude and that it occurred along the same fault line — the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone.
“It looks like it’s really bad,” Caruso said. “There could be a lot of casualties.”
Ariel Henry, Haiti’s new prime minister, in a translated tweet extended his sympathies “to the parents of the victims of this violent earthquake which caused several losses of human and material lives in several geographical departments of the country,”
Henry said he will declare a state of emergency for one month as the country assesses the damage from the disaster and sends teams to the area for search and rescue missions.
“We will make the necessary arrangements to assist people affected by the earthquake in the Southern Peninsula. We must show a lot of solidarity with regard to the emergency. The government will declare a state of emergency. We will act quickly,” he said in a later translated tweet.
President Biden has authorized an immediate U.S. response and named Samantha Power, the U.S. AID administrator, to coordinate the effort, a White House official said.
The epicenter of the earthquake was 12 kilometers, or 7.5 miles, northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud and 10 kilometers deep, according to the USGS. It struck five miles from the town of Petit-Trou-de-Nippes in the western part of the country, the survey said.
The USGS put the earthquake in its “red alert” category.
“High casualties and extensive damage are probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Past red alerts have required a national or international response,” the USGS said.
Two major cities, Les Cayes and Jeremie, have been severely affected, Port-au-Prince journalist Harold Isaac told NPR’s Scott Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday.
The earthquake is the latest crisis for Haiti
The quake comes amid unrest in the country following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last month.
“The whole crisis that Haiti has been going through, especially in the last few months, the death of the president through assassination, the country was never really ready to face yet another earthquake of such a magnitude and with such damages,” Isaac says.
“It’s indeed yet another crisis, a major one for the new government, that is also very ailing as it is,” Isaac said.
Worse, the region is doubly threatened by another natural disaster — Tropical Storm Grace could hit early next week as Haitians are still reeling from the earthquake. Winds up to 45 mph and 3-6 inches of rainfall are projected, according to the National Hurricane Center. Tropical depression Fred, which had been classified as a tropical storm earlier, could also regain strength late Saturday or on Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
People in the capital of Port-au-Prince, about 80 miles to the east of the epicenter, felt the tremor and many rushed into the streets in fear.
How the latest earthquake compares to 2010
Some fear reliving the trauma of the 2010 earthquake. A 7.0-magnitude quake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, leaving an estimated 220,000 dead and some 1.5 million people displaced and about 300,000 injured.
The USGS’s Caruso said he had expected an earthquake of this magnitude because the area is an active fault zone with a history of large earthquakes.
The mechanism of the latest earthquake, however, is different than in 2010. This one had a thrust mechanism, whereas the 2010 quake had a strike slip type mechanism, the Caruso said.
“When you’re on different sides of a fault, you feel an earthquake differently. So there’s a lot of variables to how people feel the earthquakes,” Caruso said. “Thrust faulting earthquakes can be very damaging. But, of course, strike slip quakes can be damaging as well. So at this point, we just really don’t know. We’re waiting to see what all the assessments of the damage are.”
Naomi Verneus, a 34-year-old resident of Port-au-Prince, said she was jolted awake by Saturday’s earthquake and that her bed was shaking, the Associated Press reported.
“I woke up and didn’t have time to put my shoes on. We lived the 2010 earthquake and all I could do was run. I later remembered my two kids and my mother were still inside. My neighbor went in and told them to get out. We ran to the street,” Verneus said.
In another translated tweet, Henry, the prime minister, appealed “to the spirit of solidarity and commitment of all Haitians, in order to unite to face this dramatic situation that we are currently experiencing. Unity is strength.”
This is a breaking news story. Some things reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.
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