A school partially collapsed in the Haitian capital on Wednesday, injuring at least eight students and sparking panic less than five days after a much larger school collapse killed more than 90 people.
Portions of a concrete ceiling at Grace Divine school in Port-au-Prince came crashing down, the second-story floor buckled and a wall partially collapsed while class was held at the small structure, tucked in a back alley. No one was trapped inside and there were no deaths.
Seven students and an adult were treated for minor injuries, said UN peacekeeping mission spokeswoman Sophie Boutaud de la Combe. As word of the collapse spread, crowds of anxious parents and onlookers descended along with ambulances and crews from the deadly Friday collapse of the College La Promesse in nearby Petionville, including members of a US search and rescue team from Fairfax County, Virginia.
UN peacekeepers were deployed to keep the swelling crowd of thousands from rushing the narrow concrete passageway leading to the school. Haitian politicians filed in from nearby government buildings to view the scene.
Two other children suffered minor injuries when thousands more rushed another school building in an adjoining neighborhood after false rumors spread that it had also collapsed, said Jean-Fetner Frederic, an administrator at the nearby Canape Vert Hospital. The cause of the collapse at Grace Divine was unknown, though city building inspector Edouard Ernseau said recent heavy rains may have weakened the two-story concrete structure.
On Saturday, Haitian President Rene Preval said poor construction, including a lack of steel reinforcement, was to blame for the collapse of College La Promesse the day before. He warned that many other buildings throughout Haiti are in danger of failing and he called for greater oversight.
Crews continued clearing rubble and removing the bodies of victims at the College La Promesse on Wednesday as the country's civil protection department raised the official toll from that tragedy to 91 dead and 162 injured. Preparations were under way for a memorial observance at a soccer field on Thursday.