U.S. moves to support Haiti as quake claims 1300 lives

The United States said on Sunday that it was already putting resources in place to support Haiti’s emergency response following an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude which has claimed the lives of about 1300 people.

Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency put the confirmed death toll at 1,297 as of Sunday night.

Major devastation was reported in the cities of Les Cayes and and Jeremie in Haiti’s southern peninsula. People were caught under the rubble after buildings collapsed.

The quake struck five miles from the town of Petit Trou de Nippes in the western part of Haiti, about 80 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the capital, according to the United States Geological Survey.

In Petit Trou de Nippes, the epicenter of the quake, phone lines were down and there was little information coming out of the city with officials fearing that many people may have died.

With a depth of seven miles, the quake was felt as far away as Jamaica, 200 miles away. It was stronger than the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that battered the Caribbean country in 2010.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke on Sunday with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry “to extend condolences to the people of Haiti in the wake of the August 14 earthquake,” according to a statement by Ned Price, spokesperson of the U.S. State Department.  

Price said Deputy Secretary Sherman “reiterated our support for Haiti during this challenging time and underscored USAID’s leadership role in supporting U.S. assistance efforts in the aftermath of this tragedy. She noted that the United States is already putting resources in place to support Haiti’s emergency response and assured Prime Minister Henry the United States remains a close and enduring friend to the people of Haiti.”

It was too earlier to identify most of the dead, but rreports quoted a local journalist Jude Bonhomme as saying that among the dead was the former mayor of Les Gayesm Gabriel Fortune, who was killed when a hotel he owned collapsed during the quake.

In a statement on Saturday, USAID said it was deploying a disaster assistance response team to respond to Haiti earthquake.

“Our thoughts are with the Haitian people in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti today, causing widespread damage and destruction. USAID is deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to lead the U.S. government’s response efforts,” the agency said in a statement. “This elite team, comprising disaster experts from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, is assessing the damage, identifying priority needs, and coordinating with humanitarian partners. The DART is also coordinating with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, as well as other U.S. agencies in the region.”

It added that in addition to mobilizing the DART, USAID staff based in the region and Washington, D.C. are monitoring the situation closely, as well as any potential impacts from Tropical Storm Grace which is approaching Haiti. 

“The American people have a proud and generous history of providing help during times of crisis. USAID remains committed to helping the people of Haiti during this difficult time,” USAID said.

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