Haitians are scouring shattered buildings in search of friends and relatives trapped in the rubble after a devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean country, killing more than 300 people and injuring many more.
The 7.2-magnitude quake flattened hundreds of homes in the impoverished country, which is still clawing its way back from another major temblor 11 years ago and has been without a head of state since the assassination of its president last month.
Southwestern Haiti bore the brunt of the blow, especially in the region in and around the city of Les Cayes. Haitian officials had by Saturday evening registered at least 304 fatalities and more than 1,800 people injured.
Churches, hotels, hospitals and schools were badly damaged or destroyed, while the walls of a prison were opened by the violent shudders that convulsed Haiti.
“We need to show a lot of solidarity with the emergency,” said Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who was thrust to the forefront of the troubled country after the shocking assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7.
Some Haitians said they would sleep in the open, traumatised by memories of the magnitude 7.0 quake in 2010 that struck far closer to the sprawling capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed tens of thousands of people.
Rescuers raced against the clock on Sunday and tweeted efforts by “both professional rescuers and members of the public have led to many people being pulled from the rubble”, adding already-overburdened hospitals continue to receive the injured.
Footage posted on social media showed residents reaching into narrow openings in piles of fallen masonry to pull out shocked and distraught people from the debris of walls and roofs that crumbled around them.
“Lots of homes are destroyed, people are dead and some are at the hospital,” Christella Saint Hilaire, 21, who lives near the epicentre, told AFP news agency.
Access to the worst-hit areas was complicated by a deterioration in law and order that has left key access roads in parts of Haiti in the hands of gangs, although unconfirmed reports on social media suggested they would let aid pass.
The quake sent tremors travelling as far as Jamaica and Cuba, and countries in the region quickly offered help to Haiti.
Long racked by political instability, Haitians have also suffered at the hands of international aid efforts and peace-keeping deployments during the past decade.
Writing on Twitter, tennis star Naomi Osaka, whose father’s family is from Haiti, expressed her sorrow about the latest quake, saying she would give all the prize money she won at a tournament this week to the relief efforts.
“I know our ancestor’s blood is strong,” she said, “we’ll keep rising.”