Canada is prepared to help Haiti after the Caribbean nation was struck by a deadly 7.2 magnitude earthquake, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Saturday.
The death count stood at more than 300 as of Saturday night, with at least 1,800 others injured. Search and rescue teams were being deployed due to reports of widespread destruction.
“Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones, and those who have been injured — and we’re standing ready to provide assistance in any way we can,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.
The federal government said it had not received any reports of Canadian casualties as of Saturday night.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he wouldn’t ask for international aid until the extent of the damage was known.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake’s epicentre was about 125 kilometres west of the capital of Port-au-Prince.
Henry declared a one-month state of emergency affecting the whole country, saying Saturday that some towns were destroyed, local hospitals were becoming overwhelmed and the need was “enormous.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said on social media that Canada is “ready to provide consular assistance to Canadians in Haiti.”
He also repeated Trudeau’s commitment to help in the aftermath of the disaster.
“We are very saddened by the news of an earthquake in Haiti,” Garneau wrote on Twitter.
“We offer our condolences to the victims’ loved ones and wish the injured a speedy recovery. Canada is standing ready to assist the Haitian people.”
Canada issued advice to travelers on Saturday, warning of reports of infrastructure damage, potential aftershocks from the quake and disruptions to essential services. The government said people in affected areas should follow local authorities’ instructions and monitor local media for updates.
Ottawa has sent $1.5 billion to Haiti since a devastating earthquake struck the country in 2010.
Former Canadian governor general Michaelle Jean, who is from Port-au-Prince, expressed sadness at the news which comes at during a period of instability for the country.
Haiti’s president was assassinated in July, as the nation endured escalating gang violence, political unrest and surging COVID-19 infections.
“Haiti battered by extreme insecurity: banditry, kidnappings, assassinations, the capital ravaged by attacks, disastrous political crisis, food shortages, absolute poverty and again an earthquake! Grief!” Jean said on Twitter Saturday.
In Montreal, the Haitian community held a press conference on Saturday in which different leaders announced the creation a “crisis unit.” They invited people to mobilize and donate money.
General Director of the Maison d’Haïti, Marjorie Villefranche said anyone wishing to make a donation for emergency aid should contact either the Red Cross, Doctors of the World and Doctors without Borders.
“These are the three organizations most capable of intervening in terms of emergency,” Villefranche said.
The humanitarian group Save the Children said in a statement that it was extremely concerned about the impact of the disaster on children and families, who it said were already suffering extreme poverty, hunger and violence.
“Staff in the region are seeing horrific devastation — dozens of collapsed houses, numerous injured people and fatalities,” Leila Bourahla, Save the Children’s Haiti country director, said in the statement.
“While it will take days to assess the full scale of the damage, it is clear that this is a massive humanitarian emergency. We must respond quickly and decisively.”
— With files from The Associated Press.
The Canadian Press