- A 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Haiti killed 304 people and wounded more than 1,800 others on Saturday.
- Tropical Storm Grace could compound the disaster with flooding and landslides.
- A 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed more than 100,000 people in the Port-au-Prince area in 2010.
A 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Haiti killed 304 people and wounded more than 1,800 others on Saturday. The quake originated about 12 km from the southern town of Saint Louis du Sud. The country’s disaster agency confirmed the numbers on Saturday evening, and the toll could climb further as more of the rubble is searched.
Meanwhile, the weather could complicate recovery efforts as forecasts warn the possibility of Tropical Storm Grace impacting Haiti with heavy rain and strong winds in the coming days. The storm could compound the disaster with flooding and landslides.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry said entire towns were left nearly flattened and declared a one-month state of emergency for the whole country. “The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” Henry said. “We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.” Henry went to the department of Grand’Anse to see the damage and said that his government had mobilised resources to help victims.
According to the New York Times, major devastation was reported in the cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie. 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 U.S. Geological Survey gave the earthquake a preliminary rating of 7.2 magnitudes and noted a potential for significant damage and mass casualties. Photos and videos 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 U.S. Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves from 3 to 9 feet were possible along the country’s coastal areas. The quake also triggered a landslide, which has blocked a national highway, Haitian authorities said. National Highway 7, which connects the southern cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie, has been blocked by the landslide, said the country’s Civil Protection Directorate on Saturday.
“An operation is being carried out to restore traffic circulation,” said the agency, praising efforts by rescue teams and residents to pull a large number of people from the rubble of collapsed buildings.
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 epicentre, according to the USGS.
Tropical storm Grace approaches the Caribbean
Tropical Storm Grace is entering the eastern Caribbean and sights the Greater Antillies and possibly Florida. The system could follow Fred’s path near the Greater Antilles into next week. Tropical storm warnings have been issued in the eastern Caribbean, and flooding is possible throughout the Caribbean, including in Haiti.
The NOAA Hurricane Hunters found a more disorganised tropical storm than expected Saturday evening. Tropical storm warnings have been hoisted for Puerto Rico (including Vieques and Culebra) and much of the Dominican Republic. Details on the forecast through Grace’s track near Puerto Rico are reasonably certain. Grace passed north of Guadaloupe Saturday evening and will now move through the northeastern Caribbean, bringing bands of rain and gusty winds.
Beginning early in the week ahead, the forecast becomes considerably more uncertain. The lack of an intense circulation found by the Hurricane Hunters Saturday night means that the storm could hop around a bit over the next 48 hours. Shifts in the forecast track are more likely than usual during this time.
Regardless of intensity, rainfall will be a significant threat from the Dominican Republic to Cuba, which Fred recently soaked. In the Dominican Republic, rainfall totals of 4 to 7 inches are expected there this weekend, which may lead to flash flooding. Isolated amounts of up to 10 inches of rain are possible in the higher terrain.
In Haiti, 4-7 inches of rain is expected, with locally heavier rainfall amounts possible. Mudslides, flash flooding and road washouts are possible, especially in areas where the soil is already loose due to the earthquake. Tropical storm-force winds are also possible on Monday. There is some uncertainty on how strong this system will be over the next week and its path.
The small system is expected to intensify through Sunday into a moderate tropical storm before it reaches Puerto Rico, but fluctuations in intensity are possible. By early next week, interaction with Hispaniola and/or Cuba are expected to have at least some impact on Grace’s strength. Weakening is increasingly likely, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The Haiti 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.
(with inputs from IANS, Jan Wesner Childs and weather.com meteorologists)
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