The earthquake which struck the country’s southwest at 8.29am local time, was felt across the Caribbean and rekindled painful memories of the devastating 2010 quake that killed more than 200,000 people. The prime minister, Ariel Henry, has declared a month-long state of emergency.
The death toll jumped from 29 to 227, according to Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection. Jerry Chandler, the agency’s director, said teams will be sent to the area for search and rescue missions.
“The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” said Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who declared a one-month state of emergency for the country.
“We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.” he added
Cardinal Chibly Langlois was among those injured in the quake. He was one of 19 men chosen by Pope Francis to be inducted into the College of Cardinals.
The quake’s epicenter was roughly 78 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s website.
Civil protection officials tweeted that initial reports indicate homes collapsed during the quake.
“We will continue to inform you,” the tweet read.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were briefed on the earthquake, a White House official told NBC News. Biden authorized an immediate U.S. response, and named Samantha Power as the senior U.S. official to coordinate this effort.
“In what is already a challenging time for the people of Haiti, I am saddened by the devastating earthquake that occurred in Saint-Louis du Sud, Haiti this morning,” Biden said in a statement. “We send our deepest condolences to all those who lost a loved one or saw their homes and businesses destroyed.”
The sad news comes weeks after the assassination of the country’s President Jovenel Moïse.