The quake, which struck southwestern Haiti on Saturday morning, killed at least 1,419 people and injured more than 6,900 others; the death toll is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue in the coming days.
But work to find trapped survivors or to recover the bodies of victims from the wreckage is being hampered by a lack of resources and by heavy rains, which have caused mudslides that have blocked roads in the region.
As the storm passed along the southern coast of Haiti, up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rainfall were forecast for the country’s southwest peninsula, with up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) in localized areas, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy.
Haiti is prone to mudslides due to the topography of the island — the country is home to mountains more than 10,000 feet tall — and years of deforestation that has created an ecological disaster, Guy said. Some 42 of the country’s 50 highest mountain peaks are completely devoid of vegetation, and only 1% of Haiti’s primary forest remains, he added.
The soil has also been destabilized by the recent earthquake and the aftershocks that followed. Add heavy rain over a very short period of time and you have the recipe for dangerous, even life-threatening mudslides, Guy said.
Aftershocks and mudslides have obstructed the roads between the cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie, with repairs underway.
Saturday’s quake destroyed and damaged tens of thousands of homes, according to the civil protection agency. It also blocked roads and wrecked infrastructure, making it difficult for vital supplies to reach the affected areas.
Local hospitals have told CNN that they are inundated with victims, and desperately in need of medical supplies.
The earthquake struck at 8:30 a.m. local time on Saturday, at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles); its epicenter was about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud in the southwest part of the country.
That location is about 96 kilometers (60 miles) west of the epicenter of the disastrous 7.0-magnitude quake that killed an estimated 220,000 to 300,000 people in 2010.