THOUSANDS are feared dead and many more injured after a major earthquake struck western Haiti on Saturday, forcing people to flee their homes amid fears buildings might collapse.
The magnitude 7 earthquake struck 8 km from the town of Petit Trou de Nippes, about 150 km west of the capital Port-au-Prince, at a depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.
USGS has estimated “thousands of fatalities” and “tens of thousands of injuries in poor mountainous communities.”
“High casualties are probable and the disaster is likely widespread,” a statement from the agency released around an hour after the quake said.
“Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response.”
Jerry Chandler, Haiti’s director of civil protection, confirmed deaths had occurred but said he doesn’t “yet have an exact toll.”
“We’re still collecting information,” he told AFP.
CHURCH CRUMBLES DURING CEREMONY
Images posted to social media also showed significant damage to buildings including collapsed homes and rubble splayed across the road.
A church reportedly collapsed under the strain of the quake in the southwestern town of Les Anglais while a ceremony was apparently underway.
Economic losses could range in the tens of millions, USGS reports.
The country is still recovering from a magnitude 7 earthquake closer to the capital 11 years ago that killed at least 250,000 people, injured 300,000, and displaced more than 1.5 million.
“Everyone is really afraid. It’s been years since such a big earthquake,” Daniel Ross, a resident in the eastern Cuban city of Guantanamo, told Reuters, adding that his home stood firm but the furniture shook.