What happened in Haiti? 2021 earthquake explained, where is the country located - and how it compares to 2010

The death toll from the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that battered Haiti has risen to at least 1,297 as rescuers race to find survivors amid the rubble ahead of a potential deluge from an approaching storm.

The death toll jumped up from earlier counts as the search to find survivors amid the rubble was ramped up ahead of a potential deluge from an approaching storm.

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Tropical Storm Grace is predicted to reach Haiti late on Monday or early Tuesday, bringing the potential for torrential rain, flooding and landslides.

Haiti is situated in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea, to the east of Cuba and Jamaica.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What happened?

On Saturday 14 August, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 rocked the beleaguered country.

The epicentre of the quake was about 78 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, and widespread damage was reported.

Videos posted to social media showed collapsed buildings near the epicentre and people running into the streets.

Rescue workers and bystanders were able to pull many people to safety from the rubble, but over 1,000 people have lost their lives to the quake.

Nealy 3,000 people have been confirmed to have been injured in the earthquake, with many still being taken to hospitals, adding intense strain to Haiti’s already struggling healthcare system.

Thousands more have been displaced from their destroyed or damaged homes; survivors in some areas were forced to shelter in streets or on football fields with the few belongings they were able to salvage.

Aftershocks were felt throughout the day and through the night when many people, now homeless or frightened by the possibility of their fractured homes collapsing on them, stayed in the streets to sleep.

Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the USGS, said aftershocks are likely to continue for weeks or months, with the largest so far registering a magnitude 5.2.

How has the Haitian government responded?

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry speaks during a press conference in Port-au-Prince (Photo: REGINALD LOUISSAINT JR/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he was rushing aid to areas where towns were destroyed and hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

"The most important thing is to recover as many survivors as possible under the rubble,” he said. "We have learned that the local hospitals... are overwhelmed with wounded, fractured people.

He also declared a one-month state of emergency for the whole country, and said he would not ask for international help until the extent of the damages was known.

He said some towns were almost completely razed and the government had people in the coastal town of Les Cayes to help plan and co-ordinate the response.

Henry said he wanted “structured solidarity” to ensure the response was coordinated to avoid the confusion that followed the devastating 2010 earthquake, when aid was slow to reach residents after as many as 300,000 Haitians were killed.

“The needs are enormous,” Henry added. “We must take care of the injured and fractured, but also provide food, aid, temporary shelter and psychological support.”

Henry said the International Red Cross and hospitals in unaffected areas were helping to care for the injured, and appealed to Haitians for unity.

Jerry Chandler, director of Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection, told reporters that a partial survey of structural damage found at least 860 destroyed homes and more than 700 damaged.

Hospitals, schools, offices and churches were also affected.

What does it mean for Haiti?

People search through the rubble of what used to be the Manguier Hotel (Photo: STANLEY LOUIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Humanitarian aid groups said the earthquake would only worsen the nation’s suffering as reports of overwhelmed hospitals come as Haiti struggles the coronavirus pandemic, a presidential assassination and a wave of gang violence.

Only last month, the country of 11 million people received its first batch of US-donated Covid-19 vaccines, via a United Nations programme for low-income countries.

The earthquake also struck just over a month after President Jovenel Moise was shot to death in his home, sending the country into political chaos.

The impoverished country, where many live in tenuous circumstances, is vulnerable to earthquakes and hurricanes.

It was struck by a magnitude 5.9 earthquake in 2018 that killed more than a dozen people, and a vastly larger magnitude 7.1 quake that damaged much of the capital in 2010 and killed an estimated 300,000 people.

Humanitarian aid groups said the earthquake would only worsen the nation’s suffering.

“We’re concerned that this earthquake is just one more crisis on top of what the country is already facing, including the worsening political stalemate after the president’s assassination, Covid and food insecurity,” said Jean-Wickens Merone, spokesman for World Vision Haiti.

How are other countries helping?

US President Joe Biden authorised an immediate response and named USAID Administrator Samantha Power to oversee the US effort to help Haiti.

USAID will help to assess damage and assist in rebuilding, said Biden, who called the United States a “close and enduring friend to the people of Haiti”.

Argentina and Chile also were among the first nations to promise help, but humanitarian workers have said intermittent internet and gang activity in some areas was complicating relief efforts.

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