29 dead after earthquake hits Guatemala

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By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — A powerful earthquake hit Wednesday off the coast of Guatemala, killing at least 29 people, officials said.

About 100 people were reported missing, 15 were reported trapped under rubble and the death toll could rise, President Otto Perez Molina said, citing unconfirmed preliminary reports. At least 29 people were killed, said David de Leon, a spokesman for the country’s disaster relief agency.

The 7.4-magnitude quake was felt throughout Central America and as far north as Mexico City.

The earthquake was centered about 15 miles west of Champerico, at a depth of 26 miles.

Roads collapsed in multiple locations around the Pacific coastal region of Guatemala, Perez Molina said.

“This is the largest earthquake that we have had since the earthquake in 1976,” the Guatemalan president told reporters. “Fortunately, the damage that we have is not at the same level.”

There were reports of homes and schools destroyed in western Guatemala, Perez Molina told CNN en Español. Many people fled buildings when the tremor first hit.

Some 125,000 people were without power in his country because of the quake, Perez Molina said.

It was fortunate that the school year in Guatemala had recently come to end, so that no children were inside the school buildings that were damaged, Perez Molina said.

Fearing powerful aftershocks, the government issued a “red alert” that warns people to take precautions, such as evacuating tall buildings. The alert stretches along the country’s entire Pacific coast.

CNN’s Isabel Carro, Rafael Romo, Catherine E. Shoichet, Glenda Umana and Rey Rodriguez, along with journalist Miguel Salay, contributed to this report.

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