The dead toll from a devastating earthquake in Haiti increased to 724 on Sunday, as rescue teams battled to discover survivors buried beneath buildings a day after the 7.2 magnitude quake and as a tropical cyclone pressed down on the Caribbean country.
The quake destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings in a Caribbean country still recovering from another large earthquake 11 years ago and reeling from the assassination of its president last month. Southwestern Haiti took the brunt of the damage, particularly in and around the city of Les Cayes.
Haitian officials reported at a press conference on Sunday that the death toll from the disaster had risen to 724 while rescue efforts continued. Churches, hotels, hospitals, and schools were severely damaged or destroyed, and the tremendous shudders that shook Haiti ripped open the walls of a prison.
“We need to demonstrate a lot of solidarity with the emergency,” said Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon propelled into the spotlight after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated on July 7.
The approach of tropical storm Grace, which is expected to hit Haiti with heavy rain on Monday, is expected to hamper the rescue attempts.
Pope Francis encouraged nations to offer immediate assistance from the Vatican. “May everyone’s solidarity soften the impacts of the tragedy,” he said to pilgrims and visitors during his Sunday blessing in St Peter’s Square.
According to Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, the US supplied crucial supplies and deployed a 65-member urban search-and-rescue team with specialized equipment.
Some Haitians spent Saturday night sleeping in the open, traumatized by the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck far closer to the enormous metropolis, Port-au-Prince, in 2010 and killed tens of thousands.