HAITI, Mon. Aug. 16, 2021– A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday, August 14, injuring more than 5,700 persons and causing at least 1,300 deaths. That death count will most certainly rise, since search and rescue efforts are still ongoing.
It has been reported that the 7.2-magnitude earthquake was followed by as many as 489 aftershocks, with the most notable ones being a 5.2-magnitude aftershock that hit shortly after the initial quake and a subsequent 5.1-magnitude aftershock that struck around noon on that day. These triggered a tsunami alert for the region which has since been cleared.
The Director of Cuba’s National Center for Seismological Research (CENAIS), O’Leary Gonzalez, has stated that the seismic activity stemming from this earthquake would continue to impact Haiti for months. He further noted that 7 of the recorded 489 aftershocks were also felt in eastern Cuba.
The earthquake on Saturday was a cruel blow to a nation that had still been recovering from a devastating earthquake that occurred 11 years ago. It has been estimated that the 2010 earthquake claimed the lives of over 220,000 people and injured some 300,000 more. Additionally, 1.5 million persons were initially displaced. As of January 2020, over 32,000 of those persons were still homeless. The 2010 earthquake also destroyed large portions of Haiti’s infrastructure — portions of which were key to its economic activity and its educational system. Almost 4,000 schools were reportedly destroyed.
At this time, the devastated island is at risk of being buffeted by an approaching tropical depression. Initially, tropical depression Grace was registered as a tropical storm, but was subsequently downgraded to a tropical depression, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for the majority of the coast of Hispaniola (the island on which Haiti and the Dominican Republic are located). Forecasts are currently indicating that the storm will travel through the Greater Antilles, ultimately impacting the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Monday and Tuesday, with expected wind speeds of 40-50 mph.
The storm’s epicentre is further expected to pass a tad bit north of the region that was hit by the earthquake. CNN reports are indicating that this will interfere with the humanitarian aid and rescue efforts that are being carried out on the island.
The storm is expected to dump an anticipated 4-7 inches of rainfall over Haiti and as much as 15 inches in isolated areas. This heavy rain may contribute to possible flash flooding and mudslides that will further complicate the search and rescue efforts.
Political unrest has further heightened the state of chaos on the island. Just over a month ago, the Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, 53, was assassinated by a heavily armed militia group that infiltrated the president’s home, killing him and injuring his wife.
Many countries have committed to providing humanitarian aid to the devastated country. Mexico and Venezuela have notably expressed their willingness to contribute to the nation’s recovery, with the Dominican Republic, Chile, Peru, and Argentina also indicating plans to render aid to the Caribbean nation.