A view of a collapsed building following an earthquake, in Les Cayes, Haiti, in this still image taken from a video obtained by Reuters on August 14, 2021 (Photo: REUTERS)
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A strong earthquake struck Haiti, on Saturday morning, killing at least 304 people, and causing extensive damage in the southwest of the island, bringing back to mind the painful memories of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.2, struck Haiti, Saturday, at approximately 8:30 (12:30 GMT), 12 km from the city of Saint-Louis-de-Sud, which in turn is 160 km from the capital, Port-au-Prince, according to the American Center. for earthquake monitoring.

The earthquake led to the collapse of churches, shops, homes, and buildings, hundreds of people were stuck under their rubble.

Residents continue to retrieve victims trapped under the rubble, often without special equipment, in efforts praised by the Civil Protection, saying that “the first interventions (..) made it possible to pull many people from under the rubble, while hospitals continue to receive wounded.”

The Civil Protection said that the death toll from the earthquake rose to at least 304 people, in addition to hundreds of wounded and missing, after it had announced in a previous toll that there were 227 dead.

“We have counted 160 deaths in the south, 42 in the Nipp area, 100 in the Grand Anse region, and two people in the northwest,” Civil Protection official Jerry Chandler told a news conference on Saturday evening.

On Saturday afternoon, Chandler told AFP that three hospital centers in Pestel, Curray, and Roseau had reached their maximum capacity.

For his part, Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced that “the government decided in the morning a state of emergency for a month following this disaster,” calling on the population to “show a spirit of solidarity” and not give in to panic.

It is expected that the Prime Minister, at the head of a delegation of relevant officials, will go to the place in the coming hours to “evaluate the situation in its entirety.”

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In Washington, President Joe Biden offered US assistance, saying in a statement, “I am saddened by the devastating earthquake that struck Saint-Louis-de-Sud in Haiti this morning,” stressing the preparation of an “immediate US response” to “assess the damage” and help the injured.

A White House official, who did not want to be identified, told reporters that Biden “authorized an immediate US response and instructed the Director of the US Agency for International Assistance (USAID) Samantha Powers to coordinate this effort.”

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Hotel and house collapse

On the southern coast of Haiti, the multi-story Hotel Le Menguier has completely collapsed in Las-Caes, the country’s third-largest city.

The body of the hotel’s owner, a former Haitian senator, Gabriel Fortuny, was pulled from the rubble, witnesses said. The Prime Minister later confirmed his death.

The residents of the entire country felt the earthquake. Jeremy, a city of more than 200,000 people at the southwestern tip of the peninsula, has suffered extensive damage in its center, made up mainly of single-story houses.

“The cathedral’s roof has fallen. The main street is closed (…) here is where all the economic activity of the city is concentrated,” said Jeremy’s resident Job Joseph.

“People went crazy,” said Tamas Jean-Pierre. “The parents carried their children and left the city after rumors of a tsunami spread.”

The American Center for Geophysics had issued a tsunami warning after the earthquake, but it was quickly canceled.

The city of Jeremy, known as the City of Poets, is relatively isolated from the country because the national road that crosses the island has not yet been completed.

“I was inside my house when it started shaking, I was near the window and I saw everything falling,” said Cristella San Helier, 21, who lives near the epicenter.

“A piece of the wall fell on my back, but I was not seriously injured,” she added, noting that “several houses were completely destroyed.”

Painful Memories of 2010

Witnesses filmed the rubble of several concrete buildings, including a church that appears to have been witnessing a religious celebration, on Saturday morning, in an area 200 km southwest of Port-au-Prince.

The poorest country on the American continent still remembers the January 12, 2010 earthquake, which destroyed the capital and many cities.

More than 200,000 people died that day, more than 300,000 were injured, and 1.5 million people were displaced.

More than ten years after this devastating earthquake, Haiti, mired in a severe socio-political crisis, has not been able to meet the challenge of reconstruction.

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