PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti >> Emergency teams worked to provide relief in Haiti today after a magnitude 5.9 earthquake killed 12 people and left 188 injured.
The country’s civil protection agency said that at least seven people died in the coastal city of Port-de-Paix and three people died in the nearby community of Gros-Morne in the province of Artibonite. It said that the injured were being treated at medical centers in the northern part of the country.
Interior Minister Fednel Monchery told radio station MAGK9 that 12 people had died.
“I feel like my life is not safe here,” said nun Maryse Alsaint, director of the San Gabriel National School in Gros-Morne, where several classrooms were severely damaged.
She said that about 500 students would not be able to return to school on Monday.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 8:11 p.m. Saturday night and was centered 12 miles northwest of Port-de-Paix, which is about 136 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince. The quake was 7.3 miles below the surface.
It was felt lightly in the capital, as well as in the neighboring Dominican Republic and in eastern Cuba, where no damage was reported.
In Haiti, officials have struggled to shore up buildings despite the two major fault lines along Hispaniola, which is the island shared with the Dominican Republic. Deep poverty and government instability have also rendered weaker homes and structures particularly vulnerable in earthquakes.
Rescue workers in Haiti said they were not looking for any more victims, but evidence of the quake’s destruction was on view.
In the town of Gros-Morne, one bed was covered in rubble, while the exterior walls of some homes were visibly cracked. Others tilted at precarious angles.
Pierre Jacques Baudre, a farmer and father of seven, said he was afraid to return to his home after one wall built with rocks and cement crumbled.
“The house can fall at any time,” he said.
Meanwhile, dozens of people could be seen through debris before hauling away rebar to recycle and sell.
The civil protection agency issued a statement saying that houses were destroyed in Port-de-Paix, Gros-Morne, Chansolme and Turtle Island.
Damage was also reported at the Saint-Michel church in Plaisance and the police station in Port-de-Paix. Parts of a hospital and an auditorium collapsed in Gros-Morne, where parliamentarian Alcide Audne told The Associated Press that two of the deaths occurred.
It was not clear if there was an event in the auditorium at the time, and no other details on the circumstances of the fatalities were immediately available.
Haiti President Jovenel Moise indicated on his Twitter account Sunday that civil protection brigades were working to clear debris. He also said the government had sent water and food.
In 2010, a vastly larger magnitude 7.1 quake damaged much of the capital in 2010 and killed an estimated 300,000 people.