By Onz Chery and Sam Bojarski
LES CAYES — A 4.3 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday struck the same area of southern Haiti still recovering from an earlier catastrophic quake that devastated the region last August.
The epicenter of the Dec. 21 earthquake struck Corail in the Grand’Anse department, shortly before 10 a.m., according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It is unclear how much damage Corail has sustained.
Residents of Les Cayes, a town located about 47 miles south of the epicenter, felt tremors and said the earthquake was minor. They have not seen nor heard of any homes that collapsed.
Jean Ronald Jocelyn, education program director at Hope For Haiti, ran out of his home in Les Cayes when he felt the quake.
“I thought it was going to be like the last earthquake, it was strong,” Jocelyn said. “Everyone panicked and ran out of their homes.”
Hospitals around Les Cayes were starting to fill up on Tuesday, though an official count of any casualties is not yet available. Many residents were injured from accidents as people rushed to flee buildings, said Jean Pierre-Louis, founder and president of CapraCare.
The organization’s 26-person staff in Les Cayes includes first responders who were on the scene following the tremors. Capracare also provides medical services, including mental health support, in southern Haiti.
By late afternoon on Dec. 21, CapraCare had treated multiple students who were injured as they fled school buildings. One student likely “sustained some bone crushing injuries” as she attempted to exit her school, Pierre-Louis told The Haitian Times, in a written message.
CapraCare treated six students total on Dec. 21, one of whom was sent to a hospital for further care, he said.
“People have already been on edge on a regular basis,” said Pierre-Louis, whose organization has provided psychological counseling after the Aug. 14 earthquake. “If you’re already on edge, waiting for a shake [that] means you’re not stable. So this is what’s going on right now, folks are really in a state of panic.”
Since the August earthquake that killed at least 2,248 people, southwestern Haiti has been experiencing tremors and aftershocks regularly. A 4.1-magnitude tremor in Jeremie last October caused little damage.
“We have to stay careful in the south, almost everyday there’s a small earthquake,” Jocelyn said. “Let’s just hope there won’t be one like Aug. 14.”