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The Death Toll Rises Above 700 In Haiti Earthquake Aftermath


And now to Haiti, where rescue workers are racing to find survivors who may be trapped after yesterday's devastating earthquake. Haiti never recovered from another powerful earthquake more than a decade ago. This weekend's quake was even more powerful.

NPR's Jason Beaubien is in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, where officials just ended a press conference. Thanks for being with us, Jason.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Oh, you're absolutely welcome.

KEITH: What is the latest? What did they tell you and other journalists about the latest casualty figures?

BEAUBIEN: Yeah, so the casualty numbers continue to climb. Currently, 724 dead is the official number. And in terms of injured, they're now saying 2,800 injured.

KEITH: What part of Haiti was struck, and what are the conditions there like now?

BEAUBIEN: So the conditions there are still very much uncertain. There continue to be aftershocks here. It's the southern part of Haiti. If you think of Haiti as sort of a C, a backwards C that faces out to the ocean, it's the portion of the C on the bottom part there. It's around Les Cayes. The city of Jeremie is now actually completely cut off by land. They've had some landslides that were actually - came from some of the aftershocks which had completely blocked the roads after they thought they had that reopened. They're still attempting to pull people out of the rubble. The number of missing is still unknown because they simply don't know how many people are missing. There are search and rescue teams in there, and there are more search and rescue teams on their way.

KEITH: Jason, you were in Haiti immediately after the earthquake in 2010. How is this time different? Can you tell? Is it just as devastating?

BEAUBIEN: So it's - obviously, it's just as devastating for the people whose houses and businesses collapsed and for all of the people, hundreds of people, who've already, you know, lost their lives. And there is the expectation that this number of 724 dead at the moment is going to go up. That is, you know, devastating for everyone involved.

But the quake in 2010, you know, it was roughly 200,000 people who were killed. It struck in Port-au-Prince in a very densely populated - the most densely populated part of the country. This is not in as densely populated a part of the country. However, it does span across several different cities and across a wide swath of the country.

So the impacts are still going to be huge in that part of Haiti, which has been facing, you know, all of the other problems that this country has. You know, just a month ago, I was here because the president was assassinated. And tomorrow we're expecting a tropical storm might hit. So there's sort of no underestimating how devastating that is in that area for people who are - either lost their homes or are still trying to find out if loved ones are going to get pulled from the rubble.

KEITH: And you've also reported that the country is dealing with COVID and having a difficult time getting vaccines out to people. So, I mean, it's just one thing on top of another on top of another.

BEAUBIEN: Absolutely. And, you know, the security situation has been bad. Fortunately - I was just talking to the director of civil protection here. He says he believes there's a truce now, so they're able to move trucks out of Port-au-Prince towards that area. You know, that's one good sign to help with the relief effort here in Haiti.

KEITH: NPR's Jason Beaubien in Port-au-Prince, thank you for being there.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.