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Haiti's earthquake aftermath is visible from space

Haiti earthquake
A collapsed hotel (center) lies among devastated buildings after an earthquake in Haiti August 14, 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies (Image credit: Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies)

A deadly 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti Saturday (Aug. 14) pancaked buildings so badly that the damage was visible from orbit.

Maxar Technologies satellite imagery showed the earthquake devastation in two of the hardest-hit cities in Haiti: Les Cayes in southwest Haiti and Jérémie in northwest Haiti.

"Multiple buildings can be seen in ruins, particularly in Les Cayes, while recovery crews work near the rubble of the collapsed structures," Maxar officials wrote in a description of the imagery.

Related: GPS satellites can provide faster alerts when big earthquakes strike, scientists say

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Hôtel Le Manguier (before)

A view of Hôtel Le Manguier in Les Cayes, Haiti, taken before the Earthquake, on Jan. 24, 2020.

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Hôtel Le Manguier (after)

A view of the collapsed Hôtel Le Manguier in Les Cayes, Haiti, taken after the Earthquake, on Aug. 15, 2021.

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Sacré coeur des Cayes (before)

A view of the Sacré coeur des Cayes church in Haiti, in January 2020.

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Sacré coeur des Cayes (after)

A view of the damage to the Sacré coeur des Cayes church in Haiti, captured after the earthquake, on Aug. 15, 2021.

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Les Cayes' cathedral (before)

A view of the area around the Les Cayes cathedral in Haiti, taken Jan. 24, 2020.

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Les Cayes' cathedral (after)

A view of the area around the Les Cayes cathedral in Haiti, taken Aug. 15, 2021.

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

St. Louis Cathedral (before)

A satellite image shows the St. Louis King of France Cathedral in Jérémie, Haiti, on Aug. 14, 2020.

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

St. Louis Cathedral (after)

Damage to St. Louis King of France Cathedral and surrounding buildings is evident in Jérémie, Haiti, following an earthquake on Aug. 14, 2021.

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Les Cayes (before)

A satellite image of Les Cayes, Haiti, captured Jan. 24, 2020.

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Les Cayes (after)

A satellite image of Les Cayes, Haiti, captured Aug. 15, 2021.

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(Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Hôpital Saint-Antoine (after)

A view of damage to Hôpital Saint-Antoine in Jérémie, Haiti, captured Aug. 15, 2021.


The death toll in western Haiti alone is estimated at at least 1,300 people, according to The New York Times. The country was already facing a severe shortage of doctors even before the quake, the Times added; the region of Les Cayes had only a few dozen doctors to serve more than a million people, for example.

As of Monday (Aug. 16), Haiti is also being battered by Tropical Storm Grace. The storm and earthquake are the latest calamities for the country, whose president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated July 7 amid massive political and civil instability. Even before the earthquake struck, local media said planned elections were postponed until Nov. 7, according to Reuters.

Haiti, which the Associated Press (AP) describes as "the hemisphere's poorest nation," is also still dealing with the coronavirus and weakened infrastructure, the latter caused by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the region in 2010.

"Saturday’s earthquake ... left at least 5,700 people injured in the Caribbean nation, with thousands more displaced from their destroyed or damaged homes," AP wrote. "Survivors in some areas were forced to wait out in the open amid oppressive heat for help from overloaded hospitals."

Organizations ranging from UNICEF to the New York Police Department are accepting donations to assist Haiti. CNNWire has a list of donating opportunities available.

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.