Storms and floods compound misery for Haitians as earthquake toll rises

More than 1,900 fatalities have been recorded so far with fresh water supplies running low

The death toll from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti has risen to 1,941, the Caribbean nation's civil protection agency said on Tuesday, as a tropical storm brought torrential downpours on survivors already coping with catastrophe.

More than 9,900 people were wounded when the quake struck the southwestern part of the Caribbean nation on Saturday, about 160 kilometres to the west of the capital Port-au-Prince, according to the updated toll.

With more than 60,000 homes destroyed and 76,000 damaged, the UN children's agency Unicef said that more than half a million children have been affected by the disaster.

In the coastal town of Les Cayes residents began building makeshift shelters on a football field despite gushing winds and pouring rain as Tropical Storm Grace passed over the country.

So few structures remained standing that people had to relieve themselves in city streets, according to Magalie Cadet, 41, who only had a shower cap to protect against the rain.

Aftershocks continued to rock the ground in Les Cayes days after the quake, further terrifying the residents.

"Yesterday evening, I took shelter near a church, but when I heard the ground shake again, I ran to return here," said Ms Cadet.

The US National Hurricane Centre warned of flash and urban flooding, and possible mudslides as Grace lashed the impoverished country with up to 38 centimetres of rain.

Haiti officials warned residents to watch out for buildings that are showing cracks from the earthquake because they could collapse under the weight of water.

Despite the rain, drinking water was running short. In the coastal community of Pestel, over 1,800 cisterns with drinking water have cracked or been destroyed in the quake.

In 2010, in the aftermath of a horrific earthquake that killed 200,000 people, Haiti saw a deadly cholera outbreak caused by sewage from a UN base.

Natacha Lormira tried to build a shelter for herself using a torn piece of tarp attached to a thin piece of wood.

"I don't want to hide under a gallery or under a corner of a wall because we have seen people die under wall panels," said Ms Lormira. "We have resigned ourselves that it's easier to be wet than dead."

Wet from the constant rain, 28-year-old Vladimir Gilles tried insert several pieces of bamboo deep into the ground to build a cover for his wife and child.

Mr Gilles said he needs some tarp to keep his family dry, but the government "is not helping."

"My house is destroyed, I have nowhere to sleep," he said.

The government has declared a month-long state of emergency in the four provinces affected by the quake.

Rescue workers have pulled out 34 people alive from the rubble in the past 48 hours, authorities said.

Any official rescue efforts in one of the world's poorest countries are even further complicated by political chaos raging there a month after the assassination of president Jovenel Moise.

Updated: August 17th 2021, 10:35 PM
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