(CNN) – Around 1.2 million people, including 540,000 children, have been affected by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck southwest Haiti Saturday morning, according to Unicef.
The earthquake left at least 1,419 dead and more than 6,900 injured. That number is expected to rise in the coming days, but search and rescue efforts are hampered by a lack of resources and heavy rains, which have caused landslides that have blocked roads in the region.
The tropical storm Grace, which hit the same region late Monday, “is further disrupting access to water, shelter and other basic services,” UNICEF said in a statement Tuesday. “Floods and landslides are likely to worsen the situation for vulnerable families and further complicate the humanitarian response.”
On Tuesday, donor countries and humanitarian organizations stepped up their efforts to help the country. The Pentagon announced that it had formed a joint task force to assist the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in disaster relief efforts, while the United Nations allocated $ 8 million in aid to Haiti, according to a statement by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres.
Bruno Maes, UNICEF representative in Haiti, said he had witnessed strong winds and heavy rains in the earthquake-affected area.
“Countless Haitian families who have lost everything to the earthquake are now literally living with their feet in the water due to the floods,” he said.
The agency is distributing tarps, latrines, showers, water tanks and hygiene kits as part of a joint effort with its partners, he said.
There are no rainfall reports or radar observation data available for Haiti, but CNN meteorologists estimate that approximately 60 to 100 millimeters of rain fell in the period between 11 a.m. Monday and 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to estimates from a satellite from the National Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Satellite images continue to show thunderstorms affecting western parts of Haiti, CNN chief meteorologist Dave Hennen said. Rain is likely to continue over the earthquake zone until late afternoon or late Tuesday, he added.
Haiti is prone to landslides due to the island’s topography – the country is home to mountains over 3,000 meters high, and years of deforestation that have created an ecological disaster, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said. Some 42 of the 50 highest mountain peaks in the country are completely devoid of vegetation, and only 1% of Haiti’s primary forest remains, he added.
The ground has also been destabilized by the recent earthquake and the aftershocks that followed. Adding the heavy rains in a very short period of time, you have the recipe for dangerous, even possibly lethal, landslides, Guy said.
Aftershocks and mudslides have clogged roads between the towns of Les Cayes and Jeremie, which are being repaired.
Saturday’s earthquake destroyed and damaged tens of thousands of homes, according to the civil protection agency. It also blocked roads and destroyed infrastructure, making it difficult for vital supplies to reach affected areas.
Local hospitals have told CNN that they are inundated with victims and desperately in need of medical supplies.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Tuesday that US relief efforts were focused on “getting a clear picture of what the situation is like on the ground … so that we can better coordinate and integrate the assistance from USAID and other agencies to the people of Haiti. “
Kirby added that four US Southern Command field hospitals will be installed in southern Haiti later this week.
Sarah Charles, assistant administrator for USAID’s Office of Humanitarian Assistance, told reporters Tuesday that her Haiti response team includes 38 disaster experts, as well as 65 search and rescue members and four canines from the Search and Rescue team. Fairfax County Fire Department Urban Rescue and arrived in Haiti on Sunday.
Thousands of kilos of specialized equipment and medical supplies have also been deployed, along with food and hygiene aid supplies, he added.
The earthquake is just the latest challenge for this struggling country, which was rocked in 2010 by a disastrous 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed an estimated 220,000 to 300,000 people.
Charles noted that they currently do not expect the death toll to become that high, although “that number is likely to increase in the coming days.”
“However, there are significant humanitarian needs, and we are doing everything we can to respond and respond to those needs at scale,” said Charles.
The earthquake occurred at 8:30 in the morning, local time, on Saturday, at a depth of about 10 kilometers; its epicenter was about 12 kilometers northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud, in the southwest of the country.
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