Guatemala quake kills 39, injures 155
11/07/2012 22:58 GMT
by Edgar Calderon
GUATEMALA CITY, Nov 7, 2012 (AFP) - A 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck off the Pacific coast of Guatemala on Wednesday, killing at least 39 people, injuring another 155 and destroying scores of homes.
The earthquake rattled nerves in neighboring Mexico and El Salvador, sparking a tsunami alert on the Salvadoran coast and evacuations from offices, homes and schools as far north as Mexico City.
"We have to lament the death of 39 people. It is a tragedy," Guatemalan President Otto Perez told reporters as he toured the disaster area in the southwest of the country, raising the toll after preliminary reports of 15 deaths.
The dead were found in six towns in San Marcos department, located at the border with Mexico and some 250 kilometers (155 miles) west of the Guatemalan capital.
The earthquake leveled 131 homes and injured 155 people in San Marcos department, Perez added. The president earlier said that 100 people may be missing in the disaster.
Authorities opened 11 shelters that can house 800 people.
The region bore the brunt of the damage as cars were crushed, roads cut off and utility services collapsed.
Communication was difficult in the area due to downed powerlines and power outages. Some 73,000 homes were without power, according to the energy minister.
The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 1635 GMT some 24 kilometers south of Champerico and 163 kilometers west-southwest of Guatemala City. The depth was 41.6 kilometers.
The Mexican Seismological Service said 35 aftershocks followed the quake, which it put at a magnitude of 7.3, some 68 kilometers southwest of Ciudad Hidalgo in the state of Chiapas.
The quake was strongly felt in Guatemala City and southern Mexico. People streamed out of homes, schools and office buildings in Mexico City too.
"We just had an earthquake," Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard wrote on Twitter.
"It was intense in a good part of the city," he said, adding later that the quake did not cause any damage to the sprawling metropolis of 20 million people.
Mexico City's metro service was briefly suspended.
Buildings were also evacuated in the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, without reports of damage or victims.
"I was scared. It was horrible," said Uvita Mena, who lives in the Chiapas town of Tuxtla Gutierrez.
The USGS had initially measured the quake at magnitude 7.5.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no destructive widespread tsunami threat, but Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes ordered evacuations in Puerto de la Libertad and other western coastal towns.
"This country is constantly exposed to threats... and this time the threat is a tsunami on the Salvadoran coast, especially the western beaches," Funes said.
The Salvadoran Environment Observatory issued a tsunami alert for the west coast departments of Ahuachapan and Sonsonate.
"We are not talking about a tsunami of a large magnitude," observatory spokeswoman Daysi Lopez said, adding that it would be very localized.
The event came two months after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake rocked Costa Rica, without causing any casualties or injuries.
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