August 15, 2021 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A powerful magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southwestern Haiti on Saturday, killing at least 304 people and injuring at least 1,800 others as buildings tumbled into rubble. Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he was rushing aid to areas where towns were destroyed and hospitals overwhelmed with incoming patients.
The epicenter of the quake was about 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and widespread damage was reported in the hemisphere’s poorest nations as a tropical storm also bore down.
Haiti’s civil protection agency said on Twitter that the death toll stood at 304, most in the country’s south. Rescue workers and bystanders were able to pull many people to safety from the rubble. The agency said injured people were still being delivered to hospitals.
Henry declared a one-month state of emergency for the whole country and said he would not ask for international help until the extent of the damages was known. He said some towns were almost completely razed and the government had people in the coastal town of Les Cayes to help plan and coordinate the response.
“The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” said Henry. “We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.”
He said the International Red Cross and hospitals in unaffected areas were helping to care for the injured and appealed to Haitians for unity.
“The needs are enormous. We must take care of the injured and fractured, but also provide food, aid, temporary shelter and psychological support,” he said.
U.S. President Joe Biden authorized an immediate response and named USAID Administrator Samantha Power as the senior official coordinating the U.S effort to help Haiti. USAID will help to assess the damage and assist in rebuilding, said Biden, who called the United States a “close and enduring friend to the people of Haiti.”
A growing number of countries offered help, including Argentina and Chile, which said it was preparing to send humanitarian aid. ″Once again, Haiti has been hit by adversity,″ Chilean President Sebastian Piñera said.
Among those killed in the earthquake was Gabriel Fortuné, a longtime lawmaker and former mayor of Les Cayes. He died along with several others when his hotel, Le Manguier, collapsed, the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported.