The death toll from the Haiti earthquake has risen to nearly 1,300, with at least 5,700 people injured; Christian aid organizations are providing assistance.
UPDATE 10:15 P.M.: The death toll rose to 1,297 on Sunday evening, with at least 5,700 people injured and thousands more displaced.
UPDATE 3:35 P.M.: According to Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection, at least 724 people were killed and 2,800 were injured on Sunday.
More than 300 people have been found dead after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in southwestern Haiti on Saturday morning toppled and damaged buildings, including churches, but the US Geological Survey estimates that the death toll could reach thousands. Christian organizations say they are also estimating the extent of the damage and the need for immediate humanitarian assistance.
According to the Office of Civil Protection of the island nation, which is also dealing with political and ongoing humanitarian crises, at least 304 people have died and more than 1,800 have been injured as of early Sunday in the region where a large portion of the population lives in structures vulnerable to earthquake shaking, according to the Miami Herald.
The streets are filled with screams, according to Archdeacon Abiade Lozama, head of an Episcopal church in Les Cayes, who spoke to The New York Times. “People are looking for loved ones or resources, medical assistance, and water.”
When the earthquake struck Les Cayes, Lozama was meeting with teachers and parents to discuss plans for returning to school.
The earthquake struck about 5 miles from the town of Petit Trou de Nippes, which is 93 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince, and was felt across the Caribbean. According to the USGS, it was followed by a series of aftershocks.
“People are waiting for word, and there is no word — no word from their family, no word on who will help them,” Lozama said. “When such a disaster occurs, people wait for word or assurance from the state. But there isn’t anything. There is no assistance.”
The magnitude 7.2 earthquake on Saturday was stronger than the 7.0 quake that struck the island nation in 2010, killing over 300,000 people.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Dear Lord, not another hit,’” Florida International University professor Richard Olson, who studies disaster politics, told the Herald. “We are currently in the midst of hurricane season. They have never fully recovered from the 2010 event, as well as the assassination and political instability that followed. I’m afraid of anything else that could go wrong.”
Christian organizations have stated that they are preparing to provide humanitarian aid.
“In addition to the effects of an earthquake whose damage has yet to be officially assessed, we have a pandemic and the threat of tropical storm Grace, which is expected to hit Haitian territory Sunday,” Marcelo Viscarra, the national director of evangelical aid organization World Vision in Haiti, said in a statement shared with The Christian Post.
According to World Vision, supplies have been pre-positioned to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to 6,000 people. It is also dispatching personnel to Les Cayes to accurately assess the extent of the damage and the needs of the most affected families.
The Haiti chapter of the Christian child sponsorship organization Compassion International announced on its Facebook page that its disaster response team is on the ground assisting earthquake-affected children and parents.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency is also assisting in an emergency.
In a statement to CP, the group stated that it was one of the first aid relief organizations to arrive in the affected area of Saint-Louis de Sud.
“Based on our assessments, the primary concern is to care for the injured,” said Elian Giaccarini, ADRA’s Caribbean emergency management coordinator. “At the moment, damage assessments are being conducted. One of the most difficult challenges is the extreme complexity of “gang” blocks, which prevent easy access to affected areas. We are also concerned about the impending storm Grace and the already precarious situation in Haiti as a result of violence and massive population displacement. The situation is highly complicated.”
The impoverished country was already struggling in the social and political aftermath of President Jouvenal Mose’s assassination last month.
Since last year, there has also been an increase in crime in Haiti. According to a February report from the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, there were 234 kidnappings in the previous 12 months, a 200 percent increase from the previous year.
In Haiti, authorities reported 1,380 killings in 2020. According to the watchdog organization Fondasyon Je Klere, Haiti is home to over 150 gangs.