Relatives of a man react after his body was found in a
landslide triggered by an earthquake, in El Recreo in the
San Marcos region about 250km south of Guatemala City.
REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez
Rescue workers have carted out dead bodies found under
rubble in the aftermath of Guatemala's most powerful earthquake
in decades, while others cleared wrecked cars and collapsed
buildings as they searched for survivors.
Most of those killed by Wednesday's 7.4 magnitude quake were
crushed under debris in San Marcos state, a mountainous
region near the Mexican border. Nearly two dozen people were
still missing and President Otto Perez forecast the death
toll would climb from 52.
But in a glimmer of hope, emergency workers said they pulled
seven people alive from rubble at a construction site on the
outskirts of San Marcos city.
Lying in a hospital bed in obvious pain, Jesus Ramirez
recounted how he had tried to rescue his nieces and was
"My mother shouted to me to go and see my nieces ... I wanted
to pull them out, but couldn't because the wall of my house
fell on them and on me too," he said. "I lost my leg, they
His mother and two nieces were later found dead.
On the outskirts of the city of San Marcos, rescuers stepped
up efforts at a collapsed construction site. Emergency
workers in white hard hats used tractors and trucks to shift
debris blocking roads. Cars were crushed, highways were
peppered with gaping cracks and modest homes had crumbled.
"The people of San Marcos are in deep mourning," said Wilfred
de Leon, one of whose relatives was buried by rubble and
The quake destroyed roads and forced evacuations as far away
as Mexico City. It was the strongest to hit the Central
American nation since 1976, when a 7.5-magnitude quake killed
more than 20,000 people.
"Sadly we expect the number (of dead) to keep rising,"
President Perez told a news conference in Guatemala City. He
said 22 people were missing and around 200 injured. Hundreds
more were living in shelters.
Help has poured in from afar afield as Taiwan, including 44
tonnes of humanitarian aid destined for San Marcos.
Perez was set to fly to Quetzaltenango, the country's second
largest city, to survey nearby damage later in the day. He
said nearly 3,000 people had been evacuated from their homes,
while more than 1 million have been affected by the quake.
"Reconstruction will not be easy because there are homes that
are uninhabitable," Perez said, adding that the government
had set aside $60 million for rebuilding.
He announced a state of emergency in four of the country's 22
states - San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Quiche, and
Local Red Cross chief Carlos Enrique Alvarado said on
Wednesday that 75 homes were destroyed in the city of San
Marcos alone and authorities said damage to the prison forced
them to transfer 101 inmates to another jail.
Perez, who announced three days of national mourning, said he
was suspending all vacation time for more than 25,000 members
of the national police force, who are being enlisted in
rescue and cleanup efforts.
Authorities have distributed 16,000 emergency rations and
mobilized more than 2,000 soldiers to help with the rescue
The quake's epicentre was 42km below the surface, according
to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was felt in El Salvador and
more than 1223km away in Mexico City, where some people also
fled offices and homes.