PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — An earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale shook southern Haiti early Tuesday, killing at least three people and injuring several others, authorities said.
The quake struck before dawn near the southwestern coastal town of Jeremie at a depth of six miles (10 kilometers), according to the US Geological Survey.
“I thought the whole house was going to fall on me,” Eric Mpitabakana, a World Food Program official in Jeremie, told The Associated Press by phone.
The three dead people were found under a collapsed house, where rescuers were searching for more people, Frankel Maginaire of the Haitian civil protection office in Jeremie told the AP.
He said several children were hospitalized after panicking and running away with injuries.
A crowd of people gathered around a house that collapsed as they tried to search for survivors in the rubble. At least one victim was taken out wrapped in a sheet.
Mpitabakana said things have fallen around his house and he and other colleagues are considering sleeping outside if there are strong aftershocks.
“There were so many people out on the streets and there was a lot of panic,” he recalled of the moments after the earthquake.
Claude Prepetit, a geologist and engineer at Haiti’s Office of Mines and Energy, told Radio Caraibes that smaller earthquakes in southern Haiti earlier this year led to the larger one on Tuesday.
The quake comes nearly two years after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southern Haiti, killing more than 2,200 people, with Les Cayes suffering the most damage. Some people who lost their homes last August are still living in camps.
Paul Pierre, a driver for a Jeremie-based non-governmental organization, told the AP in a telephone interview that he had barely woken up when he felt the house shake.
“Everybody ran out with their kids, their babies,” he said. “There were some houses that collapsed.”
Pierre said he stayed calm and sought shelter until the ground stopped, adding that he was used to earthquakes.
In 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake near the densely populated capital Port-au-Prince killed at least 200,000 people and caused widespread destruction to buildings.
Tuesday’s earthquake comes as Haiti struggles after severe flooding over the weekend that killed at least 51 people, injured 140 and inundated nearly 31,600 homes. Prime Minister Ariel Henry asked for international help.