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Haiti Earthquake: Death toll nears 1,300 as hospitals run out of space

Haiti’s hospitals have been swamped by thousands of injured residents after a devastating earthquake the day before killed at least 1,297 people as authorities raced to bring doctors to the worst-hit areas before a major storm hits.

The 7.2 magnitude quake on Saturday destroyed thousands of homes and buildings in a Caribbean nation which is still clawing its way back from another major temblor 11 years ago and is reeling from the assassination of its president last month.

Southwestern Haiti bore the brunt of the blow, especially in the region in and around the town of Les Cayes. Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency said the toll from the disaster had climbed to 1,297 and the hospitals that were still functioning were struggling to cope as some 5,700 people were injured.




In the northwestern city of Jeremie, another badly hit area, doctors treated injured patients on hospital stretchers underneath trees and on mattresses by the side of the road, as healthcare centers have run out of space.

The challenge facing Haiti has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, a severe economic downturn aggravated by fierce gang violence, and a political crisis that has engulfed the troubled nation after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7.

Churches, hotels, hospitals and schools were badly damaged or destroyed, while the walls of a prison were rent open by the violent shudders that convulsed Haiti. Some 13,694 houses were destroyed, the civil protection agency said, suggesting the toll could rise further.



Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who flew to visit Les Cayes, praised the dignity shown by people there even in the midst of their suffering.

“They are affected but resilient. They fight to survive,” he said, thanking international agencies and foreign governments for their support.

Nearby countries, including the Dominican Republic and Mexico, rushed to send desperately needed food and medicines by air and across Haiti’s land border. Colombia sent search and rescue personnel.

The United States dispatched vital supplies and deployed a 65-person urban search-and-rescue team with specialized equipment, said Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

From the Vatican, Pope Francis urged the international community to show support swiftly. “May solidarity from everyone lighten the consequences of the tragedy,” he told pilgrims and tourists at his Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square.

The rescue and aid efforts will be complicated by Tropical Depression Grace, which is expected to lash Haiti with heavy rainfall on Monday. Some 75 to 100 milliliters of rainfall was expected, which may trigger landslides and cause some rivers to flood, Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency said.

“We ask the population to remain vigilant,” the agency added.

Thousands of people sleeping in the streets would be exposed to the torrential rains amid a rising risk of water-borne diseases, said Chandler, the head of the agency.




The death toll is expected to rise as telephone network has been down in more remote areas. In difficult-to-reach villages many houses were fragile and built on slopes vulnerable to landslides, said Alix Percinthe, from the ActionAid charity.