Sun, September 26, 2021

international

Death toll from massive Haiti earthquake soars past 700


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - The death toll from Haitis massive earthquake has more than doubled to 724, authorities said Sunday, as government officials sought aid from U.S. first responders. Tropical Storm Grace bore down on the ravaged country with heavy rains forecast for Monday, threatening to further complicate relief efforts.

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As Haitians used crude tools to dig through collapsed homes and buildings, USAID prepared to deploy a 59-member search and rescue team on Sunday from Fairfax County, Virginia. The United Nations warned that relief operations were confronting "restrictions" due to the presence of violent gangs "hindering the capacity of humanitarian actors to operate normally and reach affected populations."

"We want (U.S. first responders) to help," said Haitian Ambassador to the United States Bocchit Edmond, who said he had also requested a search-and-rescue team from Miami-Dade County. "We have news that in some parts of the country there are probably people under rubble, and we want to give them a chance."

The 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti at 8:29 a.m. Saturday. It was stronger, though centered farther from the capital, than the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people. Officials and witnesses said the southern and western areas of the country sustained devastating damage.

Haiti's civil protection office reported at least 724 deaths, more than double the 304 reported the night before. At least 2,800 people have been injured and nearly 7,000 left homeless.

The death toll is expected to rise amid reports that some neighborhoods, which authorities had yet to reach, had been leveled.

Authorities mobilized teams to clear roads and bridges that were either damaged by the earthquake or blocked by landslides and deploy medical supplies and food to disaster sites. But local officials said it was not enough. Hospitals were overwhelmed, and ordinary citizens were joining efforts to find survivors. Thousands of homes and also schools, churches and at least one hospital have been damaged or destroyed, the United Nations said.

At least three urban areas in the southern region - Jeremie, Les Cayes and Baradères - suffered major damage, with fears of broader damage in villages and towns closer to the epicenter. High call traffic jammed lines earlier in the day, but cellular phone infrastructure in the area remained operational.

Milord Claude Harry, the mayor of Jeremie, a coastal town of 31,000, said 400 families whose homes were destroyed were sleeping on the streets. He said Jeremie and communities on its outskirts were running out of water and medicine.

He said search and rescue teams from the Haitian Police and the Haitian health department were being joined by volunteers. There still had been no contact with more remote communities, he said.

"People there are on their own," Harry said.

As foreign charities, nongovernmental organizations and volunteer groups dispatched people, supplies and equipment to Haiti, Haitan authorities reiterated their insistence that all aid be channeled and cleared through them. Edmond said the government wants to avoid a repeat of massive amounts spent - and misspent - in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

"All aid must be coordinated through the Civil Protection to prevent the errors of 2010," Prime Minister Ariel Henry told reporters in Port-au-Prince.

Published : August 16, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Ingrid Arnesen, Anthony Faiola