GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemalan emergency officials raised on Wednesday afternoon to five the number of people who have died as a result of the magnitude-6.6 earthquake that rocked portions of the country, also causing material damage and building collapses.
The spokesman for the Volunteer Firefighters, Julio Sanchez, confirmed several of the deaths.
Two people died in Retalhuleu province: an indigent 40-year-old man who died when part of a church collapsed on top of him and a woman who died of a quake-related heart attack.
In San Marcos province two other women died, one in the municipality of Malacatan from injuries she sustained when materials fell on her and another from a heart attack.
Furthermore, another woman died of a heart attack in Quetzaltenango province.
At least 10 aftershocks measuring between 3.8 and 5.1 on the Richter scale, have struck Guatemala after the main temblor very early on Wednesday morning.
The toll from the quake – according to preliminary figures coming in during the day – includes about 609 people affected, 72 with property damage, seven people injured, 71 homes with damage and about 50 collapses of various structures at assorted points around the country, in particular along the roadways in western Guatemala.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales had announced earlier in the day that at least two people died Wednesday morning when the quake struck.
In Quetzaltenango, San Marcos and Retalhuleu, where the temblor was strongest, the Education Ministry suspended classes.
The Conred national disaster service declared an orange alert as a result of the quake, which struck at 1:29 am, its epicenter being located at a depth of 151 kilometers (94 miles), some 156 kilometers west-northwest of Guatemala City, in San Marcos province, which borders on the Mexican state of Chiapas, although it was also felt in the Guatemalan capital.
Authorities said that, so far, there have been at least 50 other relatively small aftershocks.
The head of the Insivumeh seismology and meteorology institute, Eddy Sanchez, told EFE that seismic energy continues to be “released” in the aftermath of the quake, thus reducing the chances of an additional large temblor, adding that minor aftershocks are likely to continue for some time.
The quake caused power outages in certain areas, including the provinces of San Marcos, Suchitepequez and Retalhuleu.
Meanwhile, the quake was also felt in El Salvador, and Mexican authorities said that a girl was injured during the quake when a concrete block fell on her and dozens of homes and other buildings were damaged.
Chiapas state Civil Protection said on Twitter that the Mexican areas most affected by the temblor were “the cities of Huixtla, Tapachula, Cacahotan, Union Juarez Mazatan, Huehuetan and Ciudad Hidalgo, where classes and all government activities were suspended.”