At least 1,300 dead in Haiti earthquake; hospitals struggling to treat injured

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
LISTEN AUG 16, 2021

As rescue efforts continue in the wake of Saturday's 7.2 magnitude quake which destroyed thousands of buildings on the Caribbean island nation, the official death toll has now risen to 1,297. Local hospitals have been overwhelmed and are in urgent need of staff reinforcements and supplies.

The death toll from the Haiti earthquake jumped to over 1,200 on Sunday.

Rescue workers continue to search through the debris of collapsed buildings for survivors.

At least 1,297 people were killed in the 7.2-magnitude quake that struck on Saturday about 160 kilometers to the west of the densely populated capital Port-au-Prince, itself devastated by an earthquake in 2010.

Some 13,600 buildings were destroyed and more than 13,700 damaged, trapping hundreds under rubble and leaving more than 5,700 people injured, according to an update from the country's civil protection agency.

In Les Cayes, as in other hard-hit cities on the southwestern peninsula, most of the population spent the night sleeping outdoors in front of their houses -- or what remained of them -- amid fears of further aftershocks.

Local hospitals struggle to treat the injured

Hospitals in Haiti's third-largest city near the epicenter of the quake were quickly overwhelmed by the massive influx of injured.

At least 5,700 people were seriously hurt.
"At the time of the earthquake, there were only three doctors in the emergency service," said Dr Michelet Paurus of the main hospital in Les Cayes.

"This morning, it's getting better because we received orthopedists, surgeons and 42 residents" from other hospitals in the department.

Dr Rudolphe Steven Jacques came to the hard-hit area from the capital Port-au-Prince.

"The lack of equipment is chronic," he told the French AFP news agency, gesturing to a woman waiting in a corner with a large open wound on her leg.

"This woman has been waiting for me to do a suture but I don't have a tray for that at the moment."

Tropical storm bears down on quake zone

Rescuers faced additional pressure with Tropical Depression Grace approaching, raising fears of torrential rainfall, flash floods and mudslides from late Monday, according to the US National Weather Service.

The United States and other nations have pledged to help Haiti cope with this latest disaster.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke with Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Sunday and said the United States was "already putting resources in place" to bolster the country's emergency response.

USAID head Samantha Power tweeted Sunday that her agency had deployed a 65-person urban search and rescue team -- equipped with "specialised tools, equipment and medical supplies" -- to join an earthquake disaster response team already in Haiti.

US Southern Command said it established a joint military task force for Haiti on Sunday and deployed a team to the country to assess impacted areas with aerial surveillance. Four helicopters were also dispatched to provide airlift support.

Haiti's neighbouring Dominican Republic said it was shipping 10,000 food rations and medical equipment. Mexico also sent an aid shipment. Cuba and Ecuador dispatched medical or search-and-rescue teams.

Chile, Argentina, Peru and Venezuela also offered help, as did the United Nations.

'Must do better than in 2010'

"We want to plan a better adapted response than in 2010 after the earthquake -- all aid coming from abroad should be coordinated by the Civil Protection agency," said Henry.

A 7.0-magnitude quake in January 2010 left much of Port-au-Prince and nearby cities in ruins, killing more than 200,000.

The latest quake comes just over a month after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home by a team of gunmen, shaking a country already battling poverty, spiraling gang violence and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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