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 said.
The US Geological Survey (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,” the USGS said around an hour after the quake.
Images posted to social media also showed significant damage to buildings including collapsed homes and rubble splayed across the road.
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.
Naomi Verneus, a 34-year-old resident of Port-au-Prince, told the AP she was jolted awake by the earthquake and that her bed was 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,” she said.
“I later remembered my two kids and my mother were still inside. My neighbor went in and told them to get out. We ran to the street.”
A video posted to social media depicted a chaotic and frightening scene in Les Cayes, where a building had collapsed onto a street and panic-stricken residents are heard crying out in the background.
The earthquake was also felt across the Caribbean, including in Jamaica and Cuba.