Patients accompanied by their relatives are seen outside a hospital damaged following a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Les Cayes,REUTERS 
There are reports of hospitals being overwhelmed in the city of Les Cayes

Officials in Haiti have confirmed at least 1,297 people are dead after a powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean nation on Saturday.

Rescuers are picking through rubble in a desperate search for any survivors.

Homes, churches and schools were among buildings flattened in the quake. Some hospitals were left overwhelmed and in need of supplies.

An unknown number of people are missing and about 5,700 have been injured, officials say.

The disaster compounds problems facing the impoverished nation, which is already reeling from a political crisis following the assassination of its president last month.

The south-west of Haiti appears to have suffered the worst of the damage, especially around the city of Les Cayes.

Footage on social media showed residents desperately trying to pull victims from ruined buildings.

“The streets are filled with screaming,” Archdeacon Abiade Lozama, head of an Anglican church in Les Cayes, told the New York Times. “People are searching, for loved ones or resources, medical help, water.”

The epicentre of Saturday’s quake was about 12km (7.5 miles) from the town of Saint-Louis du Sud, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

But the tremor could be felt in the densely-populated capital of Port-au-Prince, some 125km away, and in neighbouring countries.


Prime Minister Ariel Henry declared a month-long state of emergency and urged the population to “show solidarity”.

“The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” he said on Saturday. “We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.”

The international community has promised to help.

US President Joe Biden said he had authorised an “immediate US response” through USAID. The UN also said it was supporting the rescue effort.

The neighbouring Dominican Republic has offered to send food and medical equipment, with Cuba also reportedly deploying more than 250 doctors.

Jerry Chandler, the head of the Haiti’s civil protection agency, said on Sunday that in the South department, where Les Cayes is situated, about 1,500 houses had been completely destroyed and 3,000 damaged.

“In Nippes [department], there are 899 houses destroyed and 723 houses damaged. In the Grande’Anse department, there are 469 houses destroyed and 1,687 houses damaged,” he added.

He warned that Tropical Storm Grace, which is approaching the country, is “likely to make matters worse” in the coming days.

The Pope offered prayers for the victims during a Sunday address and expressed hope that aid would arrive soon.

Aftershocks were felt after the initial tremor, with the USGS initially warning the earthquake could result in thousands of fatalities and injuries.

A 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed more than 200,000 people and caused extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure and economy.

People walk in a market as they go about their lives in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 24, 2021

Haiti: Key facts

  • 11 millioninhabitants
  • 59%percentage who live below the poverty line
  • 2004-2017years in which a UN peacekeeping force was present
  • 200,000number of people killed in the 2010 earthquake

Source: BBC Monitoring