An earthquake shook parts of western Haiti on Tuesday, killing at least four people and injuring three dozen others, authorities said, with more victims feared trapped under the rubble.
The magnitude 4.9 quake occurred just after 5:00 am (0900 GMT) around 5.5 miles (9 kilometers) off the coast of the isolated Grand’Anse department, some 185 miles west of Port-au-Prince, according to the US Geological Survey.
The Haitian Red Cross said emergency workers were looking for people who may still be trapped under the ruins.
“Efforts continue to find survivors,” the group said.
The majority of victims lived in the poor neighborhood of Sainte Helene, in the town of Jeremie, where an AFP photographer saw a number of cracked houses.
Three of the dead “are members of the same family and were killed when their house collapsed,” Christine Monquele, head of Civil Protection in Grand’Anse, told AFP.
“I don’t know what to do,” said Katiana Pierre, a 19-year-old who lost her husband and little sister in the quake.
– ‘I lost everything’ –
At least 36 people were reported injured.
“We were able to administer first aid to the victims,” said Soitmil Lorreus, head of emergency services at the Saint-Antoine public hospital. Some patients were airlifted to the capital, and Lorreus said the hospital expected to receive more patients from the countryside.
One man, speaking from his hospital bed in a video shared by local news outlet JCOM Haiti, recalled how his neighbors and wife helped him save his two children.
But his wife didn’t make it out alive.
“At dawn, I heard a deafening noise,” he said. “My wife, with a start, asked me to fetch the children from their room. With the help of neighbors, I was able to save the two children, but unfortunately my wife died.
“The house was completely destroyed. I lost everything.”
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in New York that the world body was “deeply saddened by the loss of life, destruction of property and suffering of the Haitian people caused by the earthquake.”
The quake comes just days after heavy storms battered Haiti — the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere — leaving at least 51 people dead and 18 missing, according to a Civil Protection services toll quoted by the United Nations on Tuesday.
The Caribbean nation is regularly hit by destructive earthquakes.
“The UN stands ready to work with the Haitian authorities and other partners to help ease the suffering of those in need as it relates to the earthquake and of course, the other natural disaster which is the flooding and landslides we’ve seen in the past few days,” Dujarric said.
He added that the World Food Program is prepared to distribute some 350,000 meals and other food assistance to those in need.
But he said that relief efforts are hampered by insecurity and damage to roads, an apparent reference to the country’s swirling gang violence.
In 2010 a massive 7.0 quake killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti, turning the capital Port-au-Prince into ruins and making 1.5 million people homeless.
In August 2021 the southwest peninsula was ravaged by an even stronger, 7.2 magnitude quake that killed more than 2,200 people and destroyed 130,000 homes.
© Agence France-Presse