Powerful earthquake hits off coast of Haiti: “High casualties are probable”

A powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Haiti on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and authorities reported multiple deaths.  The U.S. Tsunami Warning System temporarily issued a tsunami warning after the quake, which was felt in neighboring countries.

“I can confirm that there are deaths, but I don’t yet have an exact toll,” Jerry Chandler, Haiti’s director of civil protection, told AFP. “We’re still collecting information.”  

The epicenter of the quake was 7.5 miles northeast of Saint-Louis du Sud, according to the USGS.

“High casualties are probable and the disaster is likely widespread,” the USGS said. “Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response.”

The AFP reports residents shared images on social media of the ruins of concrete buildings, including a church in which a ceremony was apparently underway in the southwestern town of Les Anglais.

People in the capital of Port-au-Prince felt the tremor and many rushed into the streets in fear.

Naomi Verneus, a 34-year-old resident of Port-au-Prince, said 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. 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,” Verneus said.

On January 12, 2010, a massive, magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, one of the deadliest natural disasters in the history of the Western Hemisphere. The quake killed an estimated 250,000 and the island is still recovering. 

This is a developing story and will be updated.