- The quake struck about 78 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince.
- Entire towns were left nearly flattened.
- Tropical Storm Grace could bring strong winds and heavy rain to Haiti in the coming days.
More than 300 people are dead after a major earthquake rocked Haiti Saturday morning.
The country’s disaster agency said Saturday evening that 304 people were killed and some 1,800 were injured. That number is expected to continue to climb as more of the rubble is searched.
Recovery efforts could be complicated by the weather. There is a possibility that Tropical Storm Grace could impact Haiti with heavy rain and strong winds in the coming days. Heavy rain could compound the disaster with flooding and landslides.
(MORE: Tropical Storm Grace Forecast)
Prime Minister Ariel Henry said entire towns were left nearly flattened, and declared a one-month state of emergency for the entire country.
“The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” Henry said, according to The Associated Press. “We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.”
Major devastation was reported in the cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie, according to the New York Times. Lines of communication were down making initial information sparse.
“Many houses fell. Many people are trapped under the rubble,” Les Cayes resident Widchell Augustin, 35, told the Times. “We can hear people screaming under the rubble. People are running back-and-forth to the hospital.”
The quake struck about 8 miles southeast of Petit Trou de Nippes, which is about 100 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince, but shaking was far from the epicenter.
“In my neighborhood, I heard people screaming. They were flying outside,” Port-au-Prince resident Sephora Pierre Louis told Reuters.
The U.S. Geological Survey gave the earthquake a preliminary rating of 7.2 magnitude and noted a potential for major damage and mass casualties.
Photos and video showed piles of rubble and collapsed buildings. At least one landslide over a highway was reported.
Shaking was also felt in southern Cuba and around Jamaica’s capital of Kingston, according to reports sent to the USGS.
The earthquake comes almost a year after at least 20 people were killed when Tropical Storm Laura battered Haiti. Hurricane Matthew killed hundreds of people there in 2016. Matthew came ashore in the same region where Saturday’s quake hit.
A 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed more than 100,000 people in the Port-au-Prince area in 2010. Saturday’s quake was about 46 miles from the 2010 epicenter, according to the USGS.
Claude Prepetit, Haiti’s chief seismologist, told the Miami Herald that the region hit Saturday was considered the least at-risk.
”For me, this was a surprise and it shows us that an earthquake is something that is totally unpredictable,” Prepetit said. “There was nothing to say that this morning there would have been an earthquake and it would had occurred in this area.”
He warned people to be aware of aftershocks that could still topple buildings.
”This is why we are asking people not to run back into buildings,” he said. “Wait on the evaluations.”
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