Storm threatens rescue efforts as Haiti digs after huge earthquake: NPR

A man uses a rock to dig through the rubble of a house that was destroyed by the earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti on Sunday. Joseph Odelyn / AP hide caption

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Joseph Odelyn / AP

A man uses a rock to dig through the rubble of a house that was destroyed by the earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti on Sunday.

Joseph Odelyn / AP

More than 1,200 people were killed after the severe earthquake that struck Haiti on Saturday. But as rescue workers dig through the rubble of countless flattened buildings, many fear the actual death toll will be much higher.

On Sunday night, the official number was 1,297 dead and 5,700 injured. The 7.2 magnitude quake damaged all types of buildings, including schools, hospitals, churches, and prisons. Thousands of houses were destroyed. And the poor island nation is preparing for another brawl as Tropical Depression Grace threatens heavy rainfall and possible mudslides on Monday.

The devastation hampers aid

“It’s wreaking havoc across the region,” Margaret Lubin, Haiti’s country representative for the aid organization CORE, told the weekend edition of NPR. Many people are homeless.

“Hospitals are totally overwhelmed,” said Lubin. “We need doctors, medicine. And help has to come to the remote areas. The streets are blocked. So there is much, much, much to do.”

According to the Haitian Civil Protection Service, 1,054 deaths were reported in the south of the country, 122 in Nippes, 119 in Grand’Anse and two in the northwest.

Several humanitarian aid agencies have sent teams to Haiti to assess the situation. In the Nippes parish in L’Asile, about half of all homes were destroyed, said Lynn Hector, communications director for the Mercy Corps. Major markets in the region have collapsed, leaving people without much-needed supplies, she said. Damaged roads and collapsed bridges also make it difficult to get supplies.

“There is agony everywhere,” said program director Allen Joseph, who is on site in Nippes. “Many, many people are without a home anymore. Everywhere we went, people were crying and worrying. It is very difficult to get around.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in America supports search and rescue operations, as well as first aid and shelter. Guaranteeing access to water and sanitation while protecting people from COVID-19 is also one of the priorities, the group said.

Aid agencies warn that the death toll will rise. “The damage is enormous and people are working hard to get as many people as possible out of the rubble,” said the Dutch Red Cross on Sunday. “The misery is not over yet.”

At the request of the Haitian government, the US has deployed a 65-strong urban search and rescue team to assist in the search operations, Samantha Power told the USAID administration. This team joins a U.S. earthquake disaster team that is already on site. Several Latin American countries say they are also preparing to send humanitarian aid to Haiti.

Hundreds are dead after a major earthquake in Haiti

Individuals try to help too. Richard Hervé Fourcand, a former Haitian senator, has rented a private plane to take the injured from Les Cayes to Port-au-Prince. “I have 30 people in serious condition waiting for me,” he told the New York Times. “But I only have seven seats.”

And tennis star Naomi Osaka has vowed to donate any tournament prize money she could win this week to Haitian relief efforts.

A tropical depression could pose a new threat

In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Haiti’s Ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, said authorities are still trying to find out exactly how bad the devastation is. Her top priority is medical care and shelter for people who have been injured or displaced, he said.

Edmond also fears the weather will make relief efforts difficult. The Tropical Depression Grace, which is currently sweeping the Caribbean, could bring heavy rains and floods on Monday if it hits Haiti, potentially triggering mudslides. There could be 4 to 8 inches of rain in many areas, with isolated spots 15 inches in the south of the country, the National Hurricane Center said.

“I hope Grace is graceful enough to spare us,” Edmond said.

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