Browne: Caricom moving to help Haiti in 7.2 quake disaster

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A woman stands in front of a destroyed home in the aftermath of an earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti on Saturday. AP PHOTO -

Caricom is in the process of planning and executing a response, through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency (CDEMA), to help Haiti after it was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake around 8.29 am Saturday. This was disclosed on Saturday by Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne.

According to an Associated Press (AP) report, the US Geological Survey said the earthquake’s epicentre was located 7.5 miles from Saint-Louis du Sud, a small coastal town in western Haiti that is about 100 miles from Haiti’s capital city Port-au-Prince. The report said no tsunami warnings were issued by the US tsunami warning system for the US’ Atlantic or Gulf Coasts. The report said there were predictions of waves up to about ten for some coastlines in Haiti and people in Port-au-Prince rushed into the streets in fear after feeling the quake.

Browne told Sunday Newsday, “A meeting of CDEMA is being convened as soon as possible.” Established in 1991 as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency and renamed as CDEMA in 2009, the agency’s primary responsibility is the coordination of emergency response and relief efforts to participating states that require such assistance.

Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Cayman Islands, Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago (TT), Turks and Caicos Islands and the Virgin Islands, are the current members of CDEMA.

Browne said as of 3 pm on Saturday, the death toll from the earthquake provided by Haiti’s Civil Protection Department was 218 people. Senior government officials said there is no word of any TT nationals in Haiti at this time. They said checks are being done to determine whether there are any TT nationals in Haiti who may need help. They also said TT will be part of a wider regional response effort to help Haiti.

In a statement, Caricom said its chairman, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he held discussions with Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry about the quake. Caricom said Gaston Browne assured Henry that Caricom stands ready to assist Haiti and CDEMA is in contact with Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency to assess the damage caused by the quake.

Caricom said Browne expressed sadness over people killed and the physical damage caused by the quake. Browne also extended his wishes to the injured for a speedy recovery.In response to the quake, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) said TT is not facing any after effects, including a tsunami threat. In a statement on Saturday, the ODPM said it is aware of the quake, has been monitoring the situation and collaborating with the TT Meteorological Service (TTMS) and the CDEMA along with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.

In light of this, the ODPM said it is advising the public that “at this point in time, there is no threat of a tsunami impacting TT”. Sources told Sunday Newsday that in natural disaster situations within Caricom, “the procedure is the affected country will make a request either directly or indirectly through CDEMA.” But they were uncertain at this time, whether Haiti has made a request to CDEMA for help.

An AP report said, the US Geological Survey said the earthquake’s epicentre was located 7.5 miles from Saint-Louis du Sud, a small coastal town in western Haiti that is about 100 miles from Haiti’s capital city Port-au-Prince.

The report said no tsunami warnings were issued by the US tsunami warning system for the US’ Atlantic or Gulf Coasts. The report said there were predictions of waves up to about ten for some coastlines in Haiti and people in Port-au-Prince rushed into the streets in fear after feeling the quake.

 

People recover the body of Jean Gabriel Fortune, a longtime lawmaker and former mayor of Les Cayes, from the rubble of the Hotel Le Manguier destroyed by the earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Saturday. AP PHOTO –

 

The country is still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed tens of thousands of people and left many more homeless.

Haiti’s director of civil protection Jerry Chandler told AP, “I can confirm that there are deaths, but I don’t yet have an exact toll, We’re still collecting information.” Haiti’s emergency operations centre was activated and the report said Henry was en route to the the centre. In a subsequent tweet, Henry said he would mobilise all available government resources following the “violent quake” that had cause loss of life and damage in various parts of Haiti. He asked Haitians to unify to “confront this dramatic situation in which we’re living right now.”

The quake was also reportedly felt in the neighbouring Dominican Republic and as far away as Jamaica. Makenson Pierre, a 32-year-old Port-au-Prince resident, told USA Today that he was in the shower when he felt the first shake. Pierre said at first, he thought there was something wrong with the shower but when the shaking continued, he ran out of the home with his friend and his friend’s young daughter.

Pierre stayed in the street for 30 minutes as a minor aftershock shook the city. Phone lines were down for some time but he was eventually able to call his wife and children in the Dominican Republic, who told him they only felt minor shaking. He said, “Thank God they are all fine. Trying to confirm everyone is safe was a long process because you have to prepare for the worst.”

Widchell Augustin, from Les Cayes, said “Many people are trapped under the rubble of fallen buildings.” He said, “We can hear people screaming under the rubble.”People are running back-and-forth to the hospital.”

Naomi Verneus, a 34-year-old Port-au-Prince resident, said she was jolted awake when her bed started shaking. “I woke up and didn’t have time to put my shoes on.”We lived the 2010 earthquake and all I could do was run.”

AP also reports that the US National Hurricane Center has forecast that Tropical Storm Grace, now moving toward the Leeward Islands, will reach Haiti late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

Apart from the challenges which Haiti is experiencing with natural disaster, the country is also grappling with political upheaval from the assassination of its president Jovenel Moise at his private residence on July 7 and the socio-economic effects of the covid19 pandemic.

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