A 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on Saturday (Aug. 14) leaving thousands dead and several more injured. According to CBS News, as of Sunday (Aug. 15), the number of fatalities due to the earthquake reached at least 1,297 as rescue crews continue to search the rubble for survivors. More than 2800 people were injured during the natural disaster and thousands were left displaced after homes were damaged or destroyed.
The epicenter of the earthquake was about 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, and aftershocks continued the next day. The coastal town of Les Cayes received a heavy amount of damage. Prime minister Ariel Henry declared a one-month state of emergency for the entire country.
“The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” said Henry. “We have learned that the local hospitals, in particular that of Les Cayes, are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.”
President Joe Biden authorized an immediate response to the disaster and named USAID Administrator Samantha Power to lead United States efforts to help Haiti. Power announced Sunday that, at the request of the Haitian government, USAID was sending a search and rescue team of 65 people from Virginia. The team is equipped with specialized tools and medical supplies. Cuba also sent a 253-member health care mission to Haiti.
In what is already a challenging time for the people of Haiti, I am saddened by the devastating earthquake that occurred in Saint-Louis du Sud, Haiti this morning. Through USAID, we are supporting efforts to assess the damage and assist efforts to recover and rebuild.
— President Biden (@POTUS) August 14, 2021
The U.S. Coast Guard said a helicopter was transporting medical professionals from Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes and severely injured people back to the capital. A relief helicopter from the Bahamas was being sent along with other aircraft to Port-au-Prince according to Lt. Commander Jason Nieman. Samaritan’s Purse, a faith-based organization in North Carolina announced Sunday it would airlift 13 disaster response specialists and 31 tons of emergency supplies.
“This massive earthquake has devastated Haiti—it’s left many families homeless and searching for their loved ones,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, on the group’s website. “We are responding to help meet needs in Jesus’ name. Please pray for Haiti and all those who are suffering.”
Celebrity outreach from famous Haitians included notes of encouragement, commitments to donating money, and possible solutions to combat future devastation. Wyclef Jean, who attempted to run for president of his home country in 2010, cited a changing environment as a reason to change the country’s methods of preventative measures to guard citizens against natural disasters.
“Another earthquake hits Haiti,” he wrote on Instagram. “As we move forward [sic] in the world of climate change, let us rethink on how we can protect our country, even if it means relocating the population to different parts of the island,” he finished with the hashtag #PrayForHaiti.
International tennis superstar Naomi Osaka also shared a message on social media for Haiti. The 23-year-old has publicly displayed pride in her Haitian heritage. Her father is from the Caribbean nation. “Really hurts to see all the devastation that’s going on in Haiti, and I feel like we really can’t catch a break,” wrote Osaka on Twitter.
She continued, “I’m about to play a tournament this week and I’ll give all the prize money to relief efforts for Haiti. I know our ancestor’s blood is strong we’ll keep rising [Haitian flag, heart, prayer hand emojis].”
Bronx rapper Cardi B tweeted, “I got a soft spot for Haiti and it’s people. They my cousins.” She continued, “I pray for Haiti they go thru soo much. God please cover that land and it’s people,” adding the Haitian flag emoji.
I got a soft spot for Haiti and it’s people.They my cousins.I pray for Haiti they go thru soo much????.God please cover that land and it’s people??
— iamcardib (@iamcardib) August 14, 2021
Music artist Zoey Dollaz shared a list of necessary supplies needed in Haiti and where to donate them. The items listed include shelf-stable milk, canned goods, blankets, clothing, hygiene products, diapers, and more. Several social media users responded to his post, encouraging others to donate to the listed drives and not the Red Cross due to mismanaged relief funds in the past.
⚠️⚠️ HAITI DONATION ⚠️⚠️ pic.twitter.com/cvaiTBmB7e
— zoey dollaz (@ZoeyDollaz) August 15, 2021
In 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti resulting in a death toll of more than 300,000 according to the Haitian government, though international investigations found that number was highly inflated. The Red Cross raised millions of dollars to help rebuild, however, most of the funding never directly reached the country or helped its citizens.
According to a 2015 report by NPR, the charity raised almost half a billion dollars. The news outlet found the money was divided between poorly managed projects. Still, the Red Cross insisted all of the money was spent on benefiting the people of Haiti.
According to the Associated Press, Haiti sits near the intersection of two tectonic plates causing the country to be prone to catastrophic earthquakes. The most recent likely occurred along the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone, the same fault zone of the 2010 earthquake as well as three other big earthquakes in Haiti between 1751 and 1860.
“Hispaniola sits in a place where plates transition from smashing together to sliding past one another,” said Rich Briggs, a research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Geologic Hazards Science Center. He continued, “It just does not want to move smoothly because it’s got so many different forces on it.”
Just last month, Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated during an attack on his private residence. As VIBE reported, First Lady Martine Moïse was also shot in the attack. Political tensions grew in Haiti in the late spring and early summer as opposition leaders argued Moïse, who took office in early 2017, had overstayed his term and demanded that he step down. He and his supporters claimed a chaotic election resulted in a year-long gap and forced his five-year term to start behind schedule.
As rescue efforts continue to ramp up, officials must move with speed as conditions may worsen for Haiti as Tropical Storm Grace is expected to hit the island on Monday morning (Aug. 16) and lead to possible flooding, which could challenge recovery efforts.
“Rain and gusty winds will start to move into Haiti Monday from Tropical Storm Grace with rainfall amounts of near four inches (100 millimeters) are expected across Haiti through Tuesday,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Tony Zartman.
Entertainers of Haitian descent include Jason Derulo, Garcelle Beauvais, Capone, Dawn Richard, Flip Deniro, Rich The Kid, Pastor Troy, Kodak Black, Maxwell, Tony Yayo, and Max B.