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A terrible earthquake shook Guatemala on Wednesday destroying dozens of buildings and killing at least 48 people with many more missing or buried.
The quake, which officials called the most powerful earthquake in 36 years to strike the Central American country, hit at 10:35 a.m. along the northern part of Guatemala’s Pacific coast. The U.S. Geological Survey measured it as magnitude 7.4, while Guatemala’s National Seismological Institute ranked it as magnitude 7.2.
Guatemalan officials initially confirmed three deaths in San Marcos, a city in the country’s western interior, but continued revising the number upward as the day went on.
“They have no drinking water, no electricity, no communication and are in danger of experiencing more aftershocks,” Perez told journalists during an afternoon tour of some of the worst-hit areas, according to the newspaper El Nuevo Siglo.
The president said earlier that the areas of San Marcos, Solola and Quetzaltenango had been the hardest hit, along with Guatemala City, where some residents and office workers ran into the streets during an extended bout of strong shaking.
President Otto Perez Molina said at a news conference that 48 people died total in San Marcos and Quetzaltenango.
Perez flew to San Marcos to view the damage in this lush mountainous region of 50,000 indigenous farmers and ranchers, many belonging to the Mam ethnic group.
“One thing is to hear about what happened and another thing entirely is to see it, as a Guatemalan I feel sad … to see mothers crying for their lost children,” Perez told The Associated Press.
“Thank God we’re alive, to be honest, there are quite a few families, who have been hit badly, but we’re a tight-knight community and we’ll come out on top.” resident Arnulfo Portillo told Reuters.
The president said the government would pay for the funerals of all victims in the impoverished region.