PORT-DE-PAIX, HAITI - The death toll from a 5.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti over the weekend rose to 15 people with 333 injured, authorities said Monday, as thousands of people slept outdoors fearing aftershocks would topple their cracked homes.
Haiti's civil protection agency said it will soon deploy 70 soldiers to the Nord-Ouest and Artibonite provinces that were hardest hit, noting it already sent 14 soldiers along with nurses and doctors to the area.
Thousands of people along Haiti's north coast dragged mattresses and chairs outside after a strong 5.2 magnitude aftershock Sunday rattled cinderblock homes already cracked by Saturday's earthquake.
Among them was Marc-Sena Docteur, a 24-year-old carpenter whose girlfriend died in the earthquake.
"Now I'm left with a 9-month-old baby with no aid at all," he said. "I'm still crying. I don't know what I'm going to do without her."
The walls of the room that the couple had been renting for a year collapsed, and he and the baby have been sleeping outdoors since the quake.
Sunday's aftershock caused panic on streets where emergency teams were providing relief to victims. The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the aftershock was located 9.8 miles (15.8 kilometers) north-northwest of Port-de-Paix, which is about 136 miles (219 kilometers) from the capital of Port-au-Prince.
On Monday, Haiti's Ministry of Communication released figures stating that at least 15 people had died, nine in Port-de-Paix, one in Saint-Louis du Nord and 5 in Gros Morne. Among the dead were a 5-year-old boy crushed by his collapsing house.
Impoverished Haiti, where many live in tenuous circumstances, is vulnerable to earthquakes and hurricanes. A vastly larger magnitude 7.1 quake damaged much of the capital in 2010 and killed an estimated 300,000 people.
Etanvie Dimorne, a 50-year-old mason, said people have to rebuild stronger given the earthquakes that have hit Haiti. He lost his home in Saturday's quake and is now sleeping under a tarp in someone's yard.
"Last night it rained," he said. "I have to sleep under difficult conditions."
President Jovenel Moise urged people to donate blood and asked international aid agencies to coordinate with local agencies to avoid duplicated efforts. The government did not provide an estimate of the damages.
The quake was felt only lightly in the capital, as well as in the neighboring Dominican Republic and in eastern Cuba, where no damage was reported.
In Haiti, officials have struggled to shore up buildings despite the two major fault lines along Hispaniola, which is the island shared with the Dominican Republic.
Pierre Jacques Baudre, a farmer and father of seven, said he was afraid to return to his home after one wall built with rocks and cement crumbled.
"The house can fall at any time," he said.