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(AP) — Survivors sifting through the rubble of their earthquake-toppled cinderblock homes in Haiti on Sunday were rattled by a magnitude 5.2 aftershock that caused panic and threatened to raise the death toll even further from 12.
The US Geological Survey said the epicentre of the aftershock was located 9.8 miles (15.8 kilometres) north-northwest of Port-de-Paix, the city hard hit by Saturday night’s 5.9 magnitude earthquake. Sunday’s aftershock had a depth of 10 kilometres.
“It was an aftershock. It was at the same location,” said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the USGS. “This is the first significant aftershock.”
The tremors caused panic on streets where emergency teams were providing relief to victims of Saturday’s quake, which toppled cinderblock homes and rickety buildings in several cities.
Haiti’s civil protection agency said 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 Artibonite province. Among the dead from Saturday night’s quake were a five-year-old boy crushed by his collapsing house and a man killed in a falling auditorium.
A total of at least 12 people were killed in the quake, Interior Minister Fednel Monchery told radio station MAGK9. Authorities said 188 people were injured.
“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 USGS said the quake was centered 12 miles (19 kilometres) northwest of Port-de-Paix, which is about 136 miles (219 kilometres) from the capital of Port-au-Prince.
It was felt lightly in the capital, as well as in the neighbouring 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.
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 sifting 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.
Haiti President Jovenel Moise said on Twitter Sunday that civil protection brigades were working to clear debris. He also said the government had sent water and food.
In 2010, a larger magnitude 7.1 quake damaged much of the capital and killed an estimated 300,000 people.