Haiti Earthquake: Hundreds killed, thousands injured after dreadful 7.2 magnitude quake

Hundreds of people have been killed and hospitals are overwhelmed after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake destroyed towns in Haiti.

Authorities said at least 1,800 are injured after people fled their homes fearing they might collapse, as churches, hotels and other buildings were reduced to rubble on Saturday.

Haiti’s civil protection agency said rescue workers and bystanders were able to pull many people to safety from the rubble after the quake.

Officials say 304 people have been killed and hundreds are unaccounted for.

The search, recovery and rescue efforts are expected to be hit as the National Hurricane Centre has forecast Tropical Storm Grace to reach Haiti late on Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

The quake struck 8km from the town of Petit Trou de Nippes, about 150km west of the capital Port-au-Prince, at a depth of 10km, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he was sending aid to areas where towns had been destroyed and hospitals were overwhelmed with incoming patients.

Mr Henry also declared a one-month state of emergency for the whole country and said he would not ask for international help until the extent of the damage is known.

He said some towns were almost completely razed and the government had people in the coastal town of Les Cayes to help plan and coordinate the response.

Mr Henry said: “The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble.

“We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.”

He added the International Red Cross and hospitals in unaffected areas were helping to care for the injured, and appealed to Haitians for unity.

“The needs are enormous. We must take care of the injured and fractured, but also provide food, aid, temporary shelter and psychological support.”

Later, as he boarded a plane bound for Les Cayes, Mr Henry said he wanted “structured solidarity” to ensure the response was co-ordinated to avoid the confusion that followed the devastating 2010 earthquake, when aid was slow to reach residents after as many as 300,000 were killed.

Gabriel Fortune, a long-time politician and former mayor of Les Cayes, was among those killed in the earthquake.

He died along with several others when his hotel, Le Manguier, collapsed, the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported.

The earthquake coincided with the festivities to celebrate the town’s patron saint, adding that the hotel was probably full and the small town had more people than usual.

He said: “We still don’t know how many people are under the rubble.”

Humanitarian workers said information about deaths and damage was slow coming to Port-au-Prince because of intermittent internet.

Also complicating relief efforts was gang activity in the seaside district of Martissant, just west of the Haitian capital.

The impoverished country, where many live in tenuous circumstances, is vulnerable to earthquakes and hurricanes.