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Massive earthquake roils through Guatemala

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 8th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

At least 48 people have been killed and more than 100 people remain unaccounted for after a massive earthquake in Guatemala. Seismologists say that the quake was a 7.4 on the Richter scale.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The quake struck Guatemala's Pacific coast, leaving many villagers near the Mexican border trapped under the rubble of homes and businesses. Homes and cars were crushed.

Landslides have also blocked roads, making both evacuation and rescue efforts more difficult.

"It's very sad to meet people here who are waiting to find their families who are still buried," President Otto Perez said in San Marcos, the mountainous region most affected.

"It's really a tragedy and we will do all we can to help the families that are suffering."

The funerals of all those killed in the impoverished region will be paid for by the government, Perez says.

"We ask the president to improve conditions at the hospital," says one survivor, whose 72-year-old aunt had her legs crushed by a falling wall. "There isn't enough staff."

Office workers evacuated their buildings in Guatemala City, not far from the quake's epicenter, but later returned to work.

"It was really big. I felt quite nauseous," one secretary said.

"I was in the bathroom. When I came out the office was empty and I thought, what's happening? They didn't even say goodbye," the building's janitor exclaimed.

The earthquake was the strongest one to strike the Central American nation since 1976.

One especially tragic incident occurred in San Cristobal Cucho, in San Marcos state. Only one person in an 11-member family survived after their home was engulfed in rubble. A volunteer fireman said that only the 17-year-old son survived.

More than 16,000 emergency rations packs have been distributed by more than 2,000 soldiers mobilized to assist relief efforts and 73,000 people remain without electricity.

The state capital of San Marcos was among the worst-hit Guatemalan cities. Many of the colorful adobe buildings in the 10-square-mile center of San Marcos were either cracked or reduced to rubble, including the police station and the courthouse.

More than 300 people, including firefighters, policemen and villagers tried to dig through a half ton of sand at a quarry in the commercial center in a desperate attempt to rescue seven people believed to have been buried alive.

Damage to San Marcos' prison has forced authorities to transfer 101 inmates to another jail.

"We'd rather stay here and reconstruct the jail than be displaced," one inmate said. "That will be hard for our families,"

The quake was felt in El Salvador and more than 1,200km away in Mexico City, where some people also fled offices and homes.

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