Damage reports are now pouring in from the 7.4-magnitude earthquake that struck Guatemala on Wednesday morning November 7, and at least 50 people have been reported dead, with many others still unaccounted for in the mostly indigenous village of San Marcos and its surrounding region.
President Otto Perez Molina declared three days of mourning in the country’s worst earthquake since 1976 as rescuers, including 2,000 soldiers, frantically dug through rubble to find survivors and victims under collapsed buildings. With 22 people still missing, the death toll was expected to rise, the Associated Press reported.
As many as 1.2 million people were affected, Perez told reporters, according to AP. He said 700 people were in shelters, while others were staying with relatives or friends.
“They have no drinking water, no electricity, no communication and are in danger of experiencing more aftershocks,” Perez said, according to AP. At least 70 aftershocks, some as high as magnitude 4.9, had jolted residents in the first 24 hours after the quake, he said.
In the village of San Cristobal Cucho alone, about three miles from San Marcos, 10 family members were killed when their home collapsed, BBC News reported. The hospital, according to Fox News Latino, was the only building in town with electricity, and people flooded it carrying their wounded.
“The whole village is in mourning because an entire family was taken by God’s nature. What can we do,” village Mayor Pedro Cardona told BBC News. The nearby city and department of Quetzaltenango was also hit with multiple fatalities.
San Marcos is a mountainous region populated mainly by indigenous farmers and ranchers of Mam heritage, Fox News Latino said, about 50,000 people in all. Perez flew to tour the damage and said the Guatemalan government would pay for all the funerals.
The temblor’s tremors reached all the way to Mexico City and to San Salvador, the capital of neighboring El Salvador, according to reports. Its death toll pales in comparison to that of the 1976 quake, when 23,000 were killed as they slept by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake that flattened adobe homes, especially in the outskirts of Guatemala City.
Wednesday’s quake occurred just off the Pacific coast of Guatemala, with an epicenter 15 miles deep, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said. It occurred at the juxtaposition of three plates whose movement sends one of them, the Coco, underneath Central America at a rate of 70–80 millimeters per year, the USGS said.