A 7.4-magnitude earthquake off Guatemala’s Pacific coast has killed at least 39 people and damaged buildings and homes in the Central American nation.
The quake occurred at 10:37 a.m. local time and shook most of the country for more than 30 seconds, according to Francisco Valdez, seismologist at Guatemala’s National Volcanology, Seismology, Meteorology and Hydrology Institute. The most severe damage was reported in the town of San Marcos in northwest Guatemala, where at least three people were killed as homes and buildings collapsed, President Otto Perez Molina said in a news conference.
Perez Molina, who said he was planning to visit San Marcos, announced that the death toll had risen to 39, according to the Associated Press. At least 100 people were missing and 15 people were thought to be buried under fallen rock, homes and buildings, he said.
“The information we have at this time, only three hours after the earthquake, is very preliminary,” Perez Molina said. “The most important thing right now is the preservation of life and deploying emergency and health services to limit the amount of casualties across the country.”
Perez Molina declared a national red alert for San Marcos for the next 48 hours. The military is being deployed to the damaged areas to assist with rescue efforts, he said.
In Guatemala City, workers and citizens evacuated buildings and stood outside on sidewalks and in the street for several minutes before returning to their buildings. Cellular towers collapsed and many phone lines were down, according to national news station Guatevision.
The temblor was felt in Mexico City and as far away as Costa Rica. Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said the temblor was “intense” in parts of the city, although subway and hospital services were uninterrupted.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake’s epicenter was 39 miles (63 kilometers) from Suchiate, Chiapas in Mexico and 53 miles from Retalhuleu, Guatemala, at a depth of 26 miles. The USGS issued a local tsunami warning for coasts located within 100 kilometers of the epicenter. A small tsunami wave was recorded in Acajutla, El Salvador, though no damages were reported, according to the USGS.
Guatemala and the rest of Central America are susceptible to earthquakes because of the movement of at least four tectonic plates, including the Cocos and Caribbean plates. A 7.6- magnitude earthquake on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast killed one person and knocked out power across the country for hours on Sept. 5. Today’s quake was the largest recorded in Guatemala since 1976, according to Perez Molina.
Silver mining company Tahoe Resources Inc. said its Guatemala site appears to be undamaged, spokesman Ira Gostin said via e-mail. Goldcorp Inc. spokesman Jeff Wilhoit said in an e-mail that the company’s Marlin mine in Guatemala temporarily lost power but no damage was reported at the site.
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