Municipal Fire Department Handout via Reuters

Powerful earthquake rocks Guatemala, southern Mexico

The powerful magnitude 6.9 earthquake killed at least four and caused power outages, rock slides and building damage

magnitude 6.9 earthquake on the Pacific Coast jolted a wide area of southern Mexico and Central America Monday, killing at least five people — including a newborn boy — and damaging dozens of buildings and triggering landslides.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 7:23 a.m. EDT on the Pacific Coast one mile north-northeast of Puerto Madero, near the Guatemala border. It initially calculated the magnitude at 7.1 but later lowered the figure to 6.9.

Much of the damage was reported in the Guatemalan border region of San Marcos, where it downed power lines, opened cracks in buildings and triggered landslides which blocked roads. 

Guatemalan President Otto Perez said the baby died when a hospital ceiling collapsed on him in San Marcos, which has been hit hard by earthquakes in recent years. In November 2012, the region suffered a 7.4-magnitude quake that killed 48 people.

Two other people were reported dead in San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta, also in San Marcos, Perez told a news conference. And a woman suffered a fatal heart attack during the tremor, though it was still unclear whether the quake caused it, he added. 

"This quake was pretty strong. Families in the area are really scared ... There are houses destroyed," said Luis Rivera, governor of San Marcos.

Thirty-three people were hurt, many with head injuries, and 41 houses were severely damaged, Perez said. A further 39 houses suffered lighter damage, and 36 people in the municipality of San Sebastian Huehuetenango were evacuated, he added. 

There were reports of power outages and rock slides on some roadways in Guatemala. Photos posted on social media sites and published by the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre showed buildings with huge cracks across their facades in San Marcos, and one that apparently suffered a partial collapse.

Across the border, emergency services in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, where the quake was centered, said that two people died in building collapses. 

People in Chiapas panicked and poured into the streets and the Red Cross said it was treating some frightened adults and children.

"I thought the house was going to collapse," said Claudia Gonzales, 32, who ran to the street in the town of Comitan with her 1-year-old daughter.

Emergency services in Chiapas said via Twitter that a man died in the town of Huixtla after a wall collapsed on him.

The quake was felt across a broad swath of southern Mexico and as far away as Mexico City, but officials had no immediate reports of damage.

The quake was centered 37 miles below the surface.

In the city of Tapachula, near the epicenter, city employee Omar Santos said "buildings were moving, windows broke in some houses and businesses, and people ran through the streets in the dark." 

Wire services 

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter