Death Toll Surpasses 700 After 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake in Haiti, President Biden Responds
Over 700 people have died after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit southwestern Haiti on Saturday morning.
The death toll jumped from 304 to 724 on Sunday morning, following a briefing from officials, reported NBC News.
Many more have been injured or gone missing since the earthquake, which struck at about 8:30 a.m. local time, and was followed by a series of aftershocks, according to Reuters. The quake struck about five miles from the town of Petit Trou de Nippes, and about 78 miles west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, reducing buildings to rubble in nearby towns.
A hospital in the southern city of Jeremie has been overwhelmed with intake since the disaster struck, and they've been forced to set up tents in their courtyard for the overflow, according to CNN. "There are a lot of people coming in — a lot of people," an administrator at Hospital Saint Antoine said. "We don't have enough supplies."
The U.S. Geological Survey warns that "high casualties and extensive damage are probable and the disaster is likely widespread." The American Red Cross told CNN that there have been reports of "significant damage to homes, roads, and infrastructure."
"The initial information that I have received from Grand'Anse is heart-wrenching," said First Lady Martine Moise of Haiti in a statement. "It hurts my heart for the kids, the mothers, the elderlies, the handicaps, my friends, and all the victims of this earthquake. My brothers and sisters, we have to put our shoulders together to come together to demonstrate our solidarity. It is our togetherness that makes up our strength and resilience. Courage, I will always be by your side."
One of the most impacted areas appears to be the town of Les Cayes, where the search continues for survivors after many buildings collapsed. "I saw bodies being pulled out of the rubble, injured and perhaps dead people," Les Cayes resident Jean Marie Simon, 38, told Reuters. "I heard cries of pain everywhere I passed through."
Prime Minister Ariel Henry issued a month-long state of emergency and he said he's rushing aid to the areas most impacted, according to the Associated Press. He added that he will not ask for international aide until the extent of damages is known. Meanwhile, the International Red Cross and hospitals in unaffected areas are lending their support.
RELATED VIDEO: Puerto Rico Faces More Seismic Activity as Additional Tremors Expected After Another Earthquake
"The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble. We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people," said Henry. "The needs are enormous. We must take care of the injured and fractured, but also provide food, aid, temporary shelter, and psychological support."
President Joe Biden pledged USAID support "to assess the damage and assist efforts to recover and rebuild," appointing USAID Administrator Samantha Power to coordinate the U.S. aide effort. "The United States remains a close and enduring friend to the people of Haiti, and we will be there in the aftermath of this tragedy," President Biden wrote in a statement.
"The Haitian Government thanks you and your administration for your continued support and collaboration @POTUS," the Haitian Embassy in the U.S. responded to Biden's message on Twitter.