Death toll from southwestern Haiti's earthquake rises to 1,297

The death toll from the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti rose to 1,297 on Sunday, and the number of injured has climbed to at least 5,700.

The death toll from the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti rose to 1,297 on Sunday, and the number of injured has climbed to at least 5,700, overwhelming hospitals in severely hit areas.

The miserable situation in the Caribbean nation, already mired in the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of a presidential assassination, may even worsen due to the approaching tropical depression Grace.

According to the China Earthquake Networks Center, the earthquake struck northeast of Saint-Louis du Sud at 8:29 am local time (1229 GMT), with a 10-km-deep epicenter.

The Haiti Civil Protection Agency said more than 7,000 homes were destroyed and almost 5,000 damaged. Hospitals, schools, offices and churches were also affected, forcing survivors in some areas to wait out in the open for help.

Rescue and aid work will be complicated by tropical depression Grace, which is expected to hit Haiti hard with heavy rain on Monday, said the agency, adding that the rainfall is expected to be about 75-100 ml, which could trigger landslides and cause deluges.

Thousands of people sleeping on the streets will be exposed to heavy rains, with the risk of waterborne diseases rising, said Jerry Chandler, the head of the agency.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Haiti's southern peninsula is a "hotspot for gang-related violence," where humanitarian workers have been attacked, further complicating aid efforts.

Following the earthquake, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry declared a one-month state of emergency.

"We salute the dignity, the resilience effort of the victims and their ability to start over," Henry said. "From my observations, I deduce that Haitians want to live and progress. Let us unite to offer these people a living environment conducive to development."

The earthquake aroused concern around the world.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday said in a statement that he "extends his deep condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Haiti."

"The United Nations, together with the humanitarian community in Haiti, is supporting the government's efforts to assist those affected by the earthquake and stands ready to provide further backing to the response," said the statement.

Humanitarian needs are urgent, with many Haitians in dire need of health care, clean water and shelter, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on Sunday.

"Little more than a decade on, Haiti is reeling once again," Fore said in a statement. "And this disaster coincides with political instability, rising gang violence, alarmingly high rates of malnutrition among children, and the COVID-19 pandemic."

The earthquake on Saturday has drawn parallels to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010.

That powerful 7-magnitude quake with an epicenter 15 km southwest of the capital Port-au-Prince toppled buildings across the island, killed more than 300,000 people, injured over 300,000 others, and left some 1.5 million people homeless.

Special Reports