By Jessica Easthope and Paula Katinas
The island of Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake Saturday morning.
“High casualties are probable and the disaster is likely widespread,” a notice on the U.S. Geological Survey website reads. “Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response.”
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit 12 kilometers northeast of the city of Saint-Louis De Sud (approximately 150 miles from Port-au-Prince), according to the USGS. The U.S. Tsunami Warning System issued an alert after the earthquake.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio pledged help from the Diocese of Brooklyn for the people of Haiti and said a special collection will be taken up at Masses.
“The old saying is, ‘It only rains on the people that are wet.’ It’s unfortunate that Haiti again was struck by an earthquake,” he said, adding that the full extent of the devastation is still unclear.
“We don’t have good information. But we’ll continue to pray for them,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “And we’ll also pledge that with the Haitian community and others will take a collection up to help — whatever we can do.”
Diocese of Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Guy Sansaricq, who was born in Haiti, said the initial reports he has heard told of massive destruction in his native country.
“Buildings have been flattened. Lives have been lost,” he said Saturday afternoon. “This is a terrible, terrible tragedy.”
The country, which is still reeling from the assassination of its president last month, has been struggling to rebuild following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake 11 years ago.
“Haiti is a country that is being flogged right now,” Bishop Sansaricq said. “The people are going through so much, and now this. This earthquake is devastating. This poor country is going to need a lot of help. I hope people pray for the people of Haiti.”
Father Gerald Dumont, the parochial vicar for St. Francis of Assisi-St. Blaise Parish, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, is a native of Haiti.
At the 5 p.m. Mass he celebrated Saturday, Father Dumont asked parishioners to pray for the people of Haiti.
“You pray for assistance and to give people hope,” he said. “Despair is something that one must avoid at all costs.”
Father Dumont added that because the earthquake struck at 8:33 in the morning, many people were able to run out of their homes before the buildings collapsed.
“They are grateful to be alive,” he said.
The earthquake could be felt in several other countries, including Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and Cuba, as well as parts of Puerto Rico.
The earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, killed 220,000 people, injured 300,000, and displaced an estimated 1.5 million.