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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 (opens in new tab) 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


The death toll in western Haiti alone is estimated at at least 1,300 people, according to The New York Times (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab).

Haiti, which the Associated Press (AP) describes (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) of donating opportunities available.

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Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc (opens in new tab). in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.