The preliminary death toll from the major earthquake that struck south-western Haiti last weekend has surged to 1941 as the search for survivors resumes after a tropical storm passed and quake-hit Haitians clamour for food, shelter and medical aid.
Hospitals have struggled to tend to all those injured, the official tally of which rose to 9915, with many people still missing or under the rubble, the Civil Protection Service said on Tuesday afternoon.
“There weren’t enough doctors and now she’s dead,” said Lanette Nuel, sitting listlessly next to her daughter’s corpse outside the main hospital of Les Cayes, one of the towns worst hit by both the tremor and the storm’s heavy rains and winds.
The 26-year-old dead woman, herself a mother of two, had been crushed by debris during the magnitude 7.2 quake. Now she lay under a white sheet on the floor.
“We came in yesterday afternoon, she died this morning. I can’t do anything,” her mother said.
The quake on Saturday (local time) brought down tens of thousands of buildings in the poorest country in the Americas, which is still recovering from a tremor 11 years ago that killed more than 200,000 people.
Relief efforts were already complicated due to a weak state and difficult road access from the capital to the south due to gang control of key points. Flash flooding and landslides in the wake of Tropical Storm Grace, which by Thursday afternoon had continued on past Jamaica, further complicated matters.
The United Nations said it had allocated $US8 million in emergency funds to provide essential health care, clean water, emergency shelter and sanitation for all affected people.
The hospital in Les Cayes, about 150 kilometres west of the capital Port-au-Prince, was even more overwhelmed on Tuesday than before as patients who had been camping outside moved indoors overnight to escape the tropical storm.
Haiti’s latest natural disaster comes just more than a month after the country was plunged into political turmoil by the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday it was too early to gauge the impact of the quake on Haiti’s political process and that the United States, the country’s main donor, had no current plans to deploy American military personnel to Haiti.
The US Agency for International Development said it had resumed rescue and relief operations on Tuesday morning after suspending them during the storm and was working with international partners to scale up assistance.
Rescue workers have been digging alongside residents through the rubble in a bid to reach bodies, though few voice hope of finding anyone alive. A smell of dust and decomposing bodies permeates the air.
With about 37,312 houses destroyed by the quake, according to Haitian authorities, and many of those still unexcavated, the death toll is expected to rise.