5.3 magnitude earthquakes rattles southern Haiti; 2 dead, 50 injured, 800 houses damaged

A 5.3-magnitude earthquake and a series of smaller tremors have struck southwest Haiti, killing at least two people, sending panicked residents into the streets and forcing authorities to close schools.

The US Geological Survey said the first earthquake on Monday morning struck near the city of Les Cayes, about 200km west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, followed by tremors of 4.4 and 5.1 magnitudes.

Two people were killed, The Associated Press and AFP news agencies reported, citing Haiti’s civil protection agency.

AFP said a man died when a wall collapsed in Anse-a-Veau, a small coastal town 130 kilometres from Port-au-Prince, while a second man died in a landslide in Fond-des-Negres, 20km further south.

Nearly 200 houses were destroyed and around 600 others damaged in the Nippes district, according to the local civil protection agency. Rescue teams reported about 50 people were injured.

Southern Haiti was devastated by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in August that destroyed tens of thousands of homes and left families sleeping outside in torrential rains.

The Caribbean nation is still recovering from a 2010 quake that killed more than 200,000 people.

The country is also reeling from a protracted political conflict that was exacerbated when President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home in July last year.

Armed gangs have since strengthened their hold on the island, and deadly violence and kidnappings have surged.