Haiti earthquake latest news: Authorities expect high death toll after 7.2-magnitude shock
A major earthquake hit Haiti on Saturday morning and has caused significant damage to at least two towns, with Haitian authorities confirming that some have died.
Haiti has been hit by an earthquake registering a magnitude of 7.2, tearing through the south-west of the island and reducing buildings in the area to rubble. The number of fatalities is not immediately clear but local authorities have confirmed that some residents have lost their lives.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) announced that the quake struck roughly 93 miles west of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince at around 8.30am local time. The shocks were felt in many parts of the Caribbean and as far away as Cuba and Jamaica.
Given the shocking nature of the incident the full extent of the damage caused may not be clear for hours or even days to come but first-hand accounts from the island suggest that the towns of Jérémie and Les Cayes were particularly badly hit. In Jérémie the spire of the 19th-century St Louis King of France Cathedral has collapsed.
Local officials confirm that there have been deaths
Haiti has been in a state of turmoil in recent weeks in the aftermath of the apparent assassination of former President Jovenel Moise last month. Many had feared that the political power vacuum would have detrimental effects on public safety in Haiti and as the nation battles to respond to the tragic earthquake local officials are still unsure about the exact scale of the crisis.
Jerry Chandler, Haiti's director of civil protection, told AFP: "I can confirm that there are deaths, but I don't yet have an exact toll.”
Local resident Christella Saint Hilaire told reporters: "Lots of homes are destroyed, people are dead and some are at the hospital."
“The first images that have reached me are awful. The earthquake has caused a great deal of damage in the south. Hopefully there isn’t major loss of life,” tweeted Renald Lubérice, the general secretary of Haiti’s ministerial council.
Haiti suffers another devastating natural disaster
The earthquake that struck on Saturday morning registered a 7.2-magnitude, bringing back memories of the catastrophic quake that hit the island 11 years ago. In 2010 an earthquake measuring 7.1 struck the Haitian capital and killed an estimated 300,000 people.
It is not thought that today’s quake has caused quite as much damage but the severity of the shocks will almost certain have disastrous consequences for the country’s infrastructure and healthcare systems. As recently as 2018 a 5.9-magnitude earthquake killed more than a dozen people.
In the immediate aftermath of the quake the USGS issued a tsunami warning for the island, which has now been removed. However the National Hurricane Center has forecasted the arrival of Tropical Storm Grace on Monday night or early Tuesday morning.