Haiti quake death toll should be far below 2010 disaster: USAID

·2-min read
Aftermath of a 7.2 magnitude quake in Les Cayes

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The death toll from Haiti's earthquake on Saturday is unlikely to be "anywhere near" a 2010 quake on the island nation that killed more than 200,000 people, officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said on Tuesday.

USAID teams had so far not found people alive trapped in buildings, officials said on a conference call that included State Department officials, after the latest quake, which claimed the lives of at least 1,419 people.

"We do not anticipate that the death toll related to this earthquake will be anywhere near the 2010 earthquake where more than 200,000 people were killed," said USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs Assistant Administrator Sarah Charles.

Still, the toll was likely to rise, she added.

U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Michele Sison had been in close contact with top Haitian officials, including speaking "several times a day" to Prime Minister Ariel Henry, Charles noted.

"She did convey to us that (Henry) has expressed a very heartfelt thanks for the United States response," she said.

That response so far included 38 disaster experts from the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and 65 search and rescue members from the Fairfax County Fire Department, 52,000 pounds of specialized tools and equipment and air transport support by the Department of Defense, officials said.

They said there was not yet a budget figure for the response.

A heavy storm had paused U.S. response operations on Monday afternoon, but they were resuming on Tuesday morning.

The 2010 quake, which flattened much of capital Port-au-Prince, had led to better U.S. preparation this time, Charles said, including locally employed staff that quickly mobilized.

"We've worked closely with partners in Haiti for several years now to make sure that we have local response capability on the ground before disaster strikes," she said.

(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Dave Graham)

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