UK & World News
Guatemala Earthquake: At Least 48 Dead
A 7.4-magnitude earthquake has struck off the Pacific coast of Guatemala, killing at least 48 people, injuring another 155 and destroying scores of homes.
The quake, which hit at 10.35am in the midst of the work day, caused terror over an unusually wide area, with damage reported in all but one of Guatemala's 22 states.
It also sparked a tsunami alert on the El Salvador coast and evacuations from offices, homes and schools as far north as Mexico City, 600 miles to the northwest.
President Otto Perez Molina, at a news conference, said 40 people died in the province of San Marcos and eight more were killed in the neighbouring province of Quetzaltenango.
He said: "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."
The mountain town of San Marcos, where more than 30 homes collapsed, bore the brunt of the quake's fury.
It was some 80 miles from the epicentre.
More than 300 people, including firefighters and policemen, tried to dig through half a ton of sand at a quarry in the commercial centre of San Marcos in a desperate attempt to rescue seven people believed buried alive.
Among those under the sand was a six-year-old boy who had accompanied his grandfather to work.
Mr Perez flew to San Marcos to view the damage in the lush mountainous region of 50,000 indigenous farmers and ranchers, many belonging to the Mam ethnic group.
The president said the government would pay for the funerals of all victims in the poor region.
Hundreds of people crammed into the hallways of the small town hospital waiting for medical staff to help injured family members, some complaining they were not getting care quickly enough.
Mr Perez said more than 2,000 soldiers were deployed from a base in San Marcos to help with the disaster.
The quake, which was 20 miles deep, was centred 15 miles off the coastal town of Champerico and 100 miles southwest of Guatemala City.
It was the strongest earthquake to hit Guatemala since a 1976 trembler that killed 23,000.