Haiti earthquake kills 14, is it safe to travel?

Haiti was struck by a 5.9 magnitude earthquake last night. It has been confirmed that the natural disaster claimed 14 lives when it rocked Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince. First-aid teams from the Haitian Red Cross have been deployed to the area to meet the needs of affected residents and offer assistance to travellers visiting the area. An estimated 1.5 million people have been affected by the quake.

The earthquake took place in northern Haiti at 12:11 BST and was followed by two minor aftershocks. Thankfully, there were no tsunami warning following the quake; earthquakes can bring about a tsunami if the shocks are powerful enough to disrupt ocean plates.

Damage and injuries were mostly concentrated to the northwest region of Haiti, with approximately 135 people experiencing some form of injury from the earthquake. Injured parties are currently receiving treatment in nearby hospitals. Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant has advised that a crisis cabinet has been created to coordinate all emergency responses for the aftermath of the earthquake.

The police chief for the northwest region, Jackson Hilaire, initially confirmed seven people had died in Port de Paix, but it has come to light that eight have now been confirmed deceased. Meanwhile the interior minister, Reynaldo Brunet, said three people passed further south in the town of Gros Morne. Le Nouvelliste newspaper confirmed that one person died when an auditorium collapsed in Gros Morne.

Despite the quake being felt in Port au Prince, there was no major damage. However, the full extent of the damage and number of casualties is still emerging as authorities assess the areas that have been affected by the disaster.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has released travel advice for UK nationals who are currently visiting Haiti. They have advised that if a major earthquake does occur close to the shore, tourists should follow the instructions of local authorities; especially if a tsunami warning is announced.

Any individuals looking to travel to Haiti over the next few days may want to check with their travel agencies. There has been no mention of cancelled flights or affected accommodation in Haiti, but the area is currently unsafe. Tourists may wish to delay their journeys until after Haiti officials have been able to aid all those who have been affected by the quake.

Haiti is prone to earthquakes as the island sits adjacent to major fault lines along the so-called “Ring of Fire”. This “Ring of Fire” is a belt that runs around the Pacific Ocean, which is prone to a high number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Around 90% of all the world’s earthquakes occur along the “Ring of Fire” belt, which also contains 75% of all the active volcanoes on earth.

Last night’s 5.9 magnitude earthquake is the strongest earthquake to hit Haiti since 2010, where an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale killed 220,000 people and injured 300,000. It left 1.5 million people homeless and resulted in an immense humanitarian crisis.

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