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High Death Toll Feared In Massive Haiti Earthquake

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 14, 2021

Topline

A massive earthquake that jolted western Haiti on Saturday morning has sparked fears of devastation similar to that of the 2010 earthquake that slammed the country, with the U.S. Geological Survey estimating thousands of deaths are likely, but its location far from the most densely populated part of the country could mitigate the death toll.

Key Facts

The USGS recorded a magnitude 7.2 earthquake at around 8:30 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, with an epicenter near the middle of the Tiburon Peninsula in southwestern Haiti.

Little is known of the extent of the damage and casualties, but photos and videos posted on social media have shown extensive damage to buildings in towns like Les Cayes, where a hotel has reportedly collapsed and the hospital has been overwhelmed with the injured.

An alert was also issued for “hazardous tsunami waves” after the earthquake, and the Miami Herald reported some videos showed water flowing into Les Cayes as people ran in the streets.

A USGS tool to estimate impacts immediately after earthquakes put the chances of a death toll of at least 1,000 at 77%, with a 42% chance of 10,000 deaths or more and a 13% chance of at least 100,000 deaths.

Surprising Fact

The preliminary 7.2 magnitude reading for Saturday’s earthquake would make it more intense than the 7.0 earthquake that hit in 2010, which likely killed well over 100,000 people. Saturday’s earthquake was in a much less densely populated area, though, about 100 miles west of Port-au-Prince. The epicenter of the 2010 quake was only about 16 miles west of the capital city.

Key Background

The past few weeks have been tumultuous in Haiti after President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated on July 6. Motives for that assassination are still not clear. The nation’s presidency is now in the hands of Ariel Henry, who became prime minister and acting president of Haiti on July 20. Henry’s office had activated the nation’s emergency response program and were assessing damages on Saturday, according to the Miami Herald. Haiti is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. The nation is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, with many structures in the country not built to standards that would allow them to withstand the major earthquakes possible there, since the country is situated along major fault lines. Highly populated mountainous regions also mean even weak tropical systems passing through the area bring the potential for catastrophic mudslides due to rain.

What To Watch For

Tropical Storm Grace is forecast to hit Hispaniola and could impact Haiti starting Monday.

Further Reading

Major earthquake rocks Haiti. It may be more powerful than 2010 disaster (Miami Herald)

Haiti’s First Lady Still Alive, Arrives In Florida After Being Shot During Husband’s Assassination (Forbes)

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