- The quake left scores of people dead or injured.
- Entire towns were left nearly flattened.
- Rain could cause mudslides and destabilize damaged buildings.
The death toll from Haiti’s powerful earthquake has risen to more than 1,200 as searchers race to comb through the rubble ahead of Tropical Depression Grace, which could bring heavy rainfall and high winds that would hamper recovery efforts.
“The main threat in those areas is probably going to be flash flooding and mudslides,” weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce said Sunday.
Those could create issues of their own, but also further destabilize damaged buildings and sideline rescue crews.
“This is one of the most untimely things that can happen when it comes to Haiti,” Skyler Badenoch, chief executive officer of the charity Hope for Haiti, told the Miami Herald.
Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic could see between 4 to 7 inches of rain from Grace, with as much as 10 inches locally. Impacts are likely even if the storm is downgraded.
“Regardless, it’s going to be a heavy rain threat,” Dolce said.
The storm is forecast to move through Monday into Tuesday.
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked southwest Haiti Saturday morning. A tweet Sunday night from the nation’s civil defense authority said the number of dead had risen to 1,297.
Haiti ranks as one of the world’s most vulnerable countries when it comes to natural disasters, according to a 2020 report by Relief Web. The agency lists 76 disasters as having affected the country in the past 35 years, with more than half of those since 2007.
Most have been related to tropical cyclones and flooding. Deforestation worsens the impacts of landslides and flooding in Haiti, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The agency says climate change and rising sea levels will leave the country even more exposed to disasters.
Haiti’s 11 million people have been affected by several hurricanes and storms in recent years, including Laura in 2020, Maria and Irma in 2017 and Matthew in 2016. Four storms – Fay, Gustav, Hannah and Ike – battered the island in 2008.
All those storms combined left thousands of people dead or missing and hundreds of thousands with nowhere to live.
But none of that matched the magnitude of a devastating earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince in 2010.
The country’s also been rocked by political instability, and is considered one of the poorest and least developed in the world.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Dear lord, not another hit,’” Florida International University professor Richard Olson, who studies the politics of disasters, told the Herald. “We’re in the middle of hurricane season. They haven’t ever really recovered from [the] 2010 event … I’m almost afraid of anything else that can go wrong.”
Meanwhile, search and rescue crews continue to dig through the rubble and hospitals are overflowing with the wounded.
“The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” Prime Minister Ariel Henry said Saturday, according to The Associated Press. “The needs are enormous. We must take care of the injured and fractured, but also provide food, aid, temporary shelter and psychological support.”
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