LES CAYES, Haiti (AP) — The death toll from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Haiti climbed to 1,419 on Sunday, a day after the powerful temblor turned thousands of structures into rubble and set off franctic rescue efforts ahead of a potential deluge from an approaching storm.
Saturday’s earthquake also left at least 5,700 people injured in the Caribbean nation, with thousands more displaced from their destroyed or damaged homes. Survivors in some areas were forced to wait out in the open amid oppressive heat for help from overloaded hospitals.
The devastation could soon worsen with the coming of Tropical Depression Grace, which is predicted to reach Haiti on Monday night. The U.S. National Hurricane Center warned that although Grace had weakened from tropical storm strength Sunday, it still posed a threat to bring heavy rain, flooding and landslides.
The earthquake struck the southwestern part of the hemisphere’s poorest nation, almost razing some towns and triggering landslides that hampered rescue efforts in a country already struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, a presidential assassination and a wave of gang violence.
The epicenter was about 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and aftershocks continued to jolt the area Sunday.
In the badly damaged coastal town of Les Cayes, Jennie Auguste lay on a flimsy foam mattress on the tarmac of the community’s tiny airport waiting for anything — space at a hospital or a small plane like the ones ferrying the wounded to the capital. She suffered injuries in the chest, abdomen and arm when the roof collapsed at the store where she worked.
“There has been nothing. No help, nothing from the government,” Auguste’s sister, Bertrande, said.
In scenes widespread across the region hit by the quake, families salvaged their few belongings and spent the night at
an open-air football pitch. On Sunday, people lined up to buy what little was available: bananas, avocados and water at a local street market.
Some in the town praised God for surviving the earthquake, and many went to the cathedral, which appeared outwardly undamaged even if the priests’ residence was destroyed.
“We only have Jesus now,” said Johanne Dorcely, whose house was destroyed. “If it wasn’t for Jesus, I wouldn’t be able to be here today.”
Workers tore through rubble of collapsed buildings with heavy machinery, shovels and picks. After sundown, Les Cayes was darkened by intermittent blackouts, and many slept people outside again, clutching small transistor radios tuned to news, terrified of a possible repetition of Saturday’s strong aftershocks.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry has declared a onemonth state of emergency for the whole country and said he was rushing aid to areas where towns were destroyed and hospitals were overwhelmed.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said Sunday that humanitarian needs are acute, with many Haitians urgently needing health care, clean water and shelter.