The death toll from last week’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti has climbed to 2,207, with 344 people missing, according to the country’s civil defence agency.
The death toll increases at a time when relief operations are expanding, and authorities are struggling with security at distribution points. Gangs have hijacked aid trucks and even ambulances, forcing relief workers to transport supplies by helicopter.
Recovery efforts have also been impeded by flooding and damage to access roads, feeding tensions in some of the hardest-hit areas. In places, desperate crowds have scuffled over bags of food.
On Sunday, one of the capital’s most notorious gangsters announced in a social media video that his allied gangs had reached a truce and would assist in relief efforts. If that proves to be true, it might allow an acceleration of relief efforts.
Jimmy Cherizier, alias “Barbecue”, leader of G9 Revolutionary Forces, addressed a Facebook video to the hardest-hit parts of Haiti’s southwestern peninsula.
“We want to tell them that the G9 Revolutionary Forces and allies, all for one and one for all, sympathise with their pain and sorrows,” Cherizier said. “The Revolutionary Forces G9 and allies … will participate in the relief by bringing them help. We invite all compatriots to show solidarity with the victims by trying to share what little there is with them.”
The increase in the death toll was the first since late Wednesday when the government put it at 2,189. The government said on Sunday that 344 people were still missing, 12,268 people were injured and nearly 53,000 houses were destroyed by the earthquake.
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The collapse of churches in some of the worst-affected towns and villages of the impoverished Caribbean nation left residents to grieve in open fields.
In the hard-hit city of Les Cayes, meanwhile, some attended outdoor church services on Sunday because sanctuaries had been badly damaged by the earthquake, which was centred on the impoverished nation’s southwestern peninsula.
About 200 worshippers gathered early at the Paroisse Saint-Joseph De Simon Roman Catholic Church on the outskirts of the city for the first Sunday mass since the disaster.
“Everyone was crying today for what they had lost,” said the priest, Marc Orel Sael. “And everyone is stressed because the earth is still shaking,” he added, referring to near-daily aftershocks that have rattled nerves all week.
Aid delivery and rescue teams have been pouring into the country. The USS Arlington arrived from the United States on the weekend, with doctors, nurses, medical devices, two helicopters and 200 Marines.
Additionally, US aid organisation Samaritan’s Purse opened a field hospital in Les Cayes, one of the big cities in the worst-hit area, and took in its first patients.
German aid organisation ISAR Germany has also sent a team of 33 doctors, nurses and orderlies, along with 11 tonnes of material.
The disaster followed a devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed tens of thousands of people.