A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the northwest coast of Haiti late Saturday, killing at least 12 people, injuring more than 130 others and damaging homes in the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation, authorities said.
The epicenter of the quake was located about 19 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of the city of Port-de-Paix, the US Geological Survey reported.
President Jovenel Moise said he and Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant had reached “the zone affected by the earthquake to bring assistance to the population” and coordinate relief efforts.
He had said earlier he was headed to Port-de-Paix and another quake-hit city, Gros-Morne, about 50 kilometers to the southeast.
“I congratulate the citizens for their show of solidarity and support,” Moise said in a Twitter message, vowing to ensure that the government was doing everything possible to help victims.
The quake, which was felt across the country, struck at 8:10 pm (0010 GMT Sunday) at a shallow depth of 11.7 kilometers.
Government spokesmen said that 12 people had been reported dead so far, eight of them in Port-de-Paix, the capital of Haiti’s Nord-Ouest department, and four others in Gros-Morne.
Haiti’s civil protection agency put the preliminary number of injured at 188.
Two minor aftershocks were registered, the agency said, adding that no tsunami warning was issued.
The town of Chansolme and the small island of Tortuga also suffered damage, officials said.
The tremor rattled the capital Port-de-Prince, sparking fear among residents still reeling from the massive 2010 earthquake that left at least 200,000 people dead and 300,000 more injured.
“I urge the population to remain calm,” President Moise said in a tweet Saturday.
Some of the injuries were sustained when people panicked after the quake, the civil protection agency said.
The agency confirmed that some homes were destroyed or damaged, without offering specific figures.
The Nord-Ouest department is the poorest part of impoverished Haiti, with many areas isolated due to the dire state of the roads.
There was an unusual buzz of activity, however, at the site in Gros-Morne where a community center had collapsed. Residents using saws or their bare hands scrambled to recover metal support rods from the debris for resale, before being chased away by authorities.
The building’s guard, who was sleeping at the time of the quake, was killed.
A woman watching the scene, 49-year-old Rosette Jerome, said no one in her neighborhood had been killed “but a child was seriously injured when a piece of the wall fell on it.”
The devastating 7.0-magnitude quake that struck in January 2010 left more than 1.5 million people homeless. Tens of thousands remain in makeshift camps.
The damage caused was worth an estimated 120 percent of GDP in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Longer-term reconstruction has been hampered by lingering political chaos in the nation of nearly 11 million people, and by a deadly cholera epidemic introduced by infected Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent in after the quake. – AFP.