7.2-magnitude quake that struck 150 km from capital was bigger, more shallow than disastrous 2011 quake
Thomson Reuters · Posted: Aug 14, 2021 9:14 AM ET | Last Updated: 16 minutes ago
A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eight kilometres from the town of Petit-Trou-de-Nippes, about 150 km west of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, on Saturday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said. (CBC News)
A major earthquake struck western Haiti on Saturday morning, likely causing high casualties and widespread disaster, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and sending shock waves across the Caribbean, where people fled their homes for fear they might collapse.
The 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eight kilometres from the town of Petit-Trou-de-Nippes, about 150 km west of the capital Port-au-Prince, at a depth of 10 km, the USGS said.
That made the earthquake bigger and more shallow than the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Haiti 11 years ago, killing an estimated 250,000 people, flattening buildings and leaving many homeless.
The U.S. Tsunami Warning System issued a tsunami warning after the quake, lifting it shortly thereafter, although Haitian media outlets reported some people along the coast had already fled to the mountains.
The USGS has issued a “red alert” estimating thousands of fatalities.
“High casualties and extensive damage are probable and the disaster is likely widespread,” it said in an update at 16:07:35 UTC on its website. “Past red alerts have required a national or international response.”
Haiti’s Civil Protection service said on Twitter there were initial reports of likely casualties from its teams.
People ‘were flying outside’
Images posted on social media — which Reuters was not immediately able to verify — showed homes and part of a church in the nearby town of Jérémie reduced to rubble.
“In my neighbourhood, I heard people screaming. They were flying outside,” said Port-au-Prince resident Sephora Pierre Louis, adding she was still in a state of shock. “At least they know to go outside. In 2010, they didn’t know what to do. People are still outside in the street.”
A magnitude 7 earthquake struck Haiti 11 years ago, killing an estimated 250,000 people. Here, Haitians made homeless in the 2010 earthquake stand outside their tents on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 13, 2011. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)
The earthquake comes as Haiti is already mired in intertwined political, humanitarian and security crises.
The government is in turmoil, a month after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, while swaths of the country are facing growing hunger, and health-care services are overwhelmed by COVID-19. Access to the southern region, where the quake struck, has been restricted by gang control of key areas.
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“This country just never finds a break! Each year of mismanagement did not hurt, but the cumulative effects made us vulnerable to everything,” Haitian entrepreneur Marc Alain Boucicault said on Twitter.
“Its going to take years to fix things, and we have not even started!”
Felt as far away as Cuba, Jamaica
The quake was felt as far as Cuba and Jamaica, although there were no reports of material damage, deaths or injuries there.
“Everyone is really afraid. It’s been years since such a big earthquake,” said Daniel Ross, a resident in the eastern Cuban city of Guantanamo.
He said his home stood firm but the furniture shook.
“I feel it, man. It wake me up. My roof kind of make some noise,” said Danny Bailey, 49, in Kingston.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre also reported a quake in the region, saying it was magnitude 7.6, while Cuba’s seismological centre said it registered a magnitude of 7.4.