San Marcos (Guatemala), Nov 8: Guatemalans huddled in the cold streets of an earthquake-ravaged town without communications or power on Thursday, one day after the worst temblor since 1976 shook nearly the entire country, killing at least 52 people and leaving another 22 people missing.
President Otto Perez Molina said the powerful 7.4-magnitude quake that hit yesterday morning off the Pacific coast affected as many as 1.2 million people. He said a little more than 700 people were in shelters, with most opting to stay with family or friends. "They have no drinking water, no electricity, no communication and are in danger of experiencing more aftershocks," Perez told a news conference.
The president said there had been 70 aftershocks in the first 24 hours after the quake, some as strong as magnitude 4.9. Damaged homes will be among the biggest problems the country will face in the coming days, Perez added.
Guatemalans fearing aftershocks huddled in the streets of the mountain town of San Marcos, the most affected area, where at least 40 people died. Others crowded inside its hospital, the only building left with electricity. More than 90 rescue workers continued to dig with backhoes at a half-ton mound of sand at a quarry trying to rescue seven people.
"We started rescue work very early," said Julio Cesar Fuentes of the municipal fire department. "The objective is our hope to find people who were buried." But they uncovered only one more body, that of one of the quarry workers.
The worker's son was called to identify him. When he climbed into the sand pit and recognised the clothing, the man collapsed onto the shoulders of firefighters, crying: "Papa, Papa, Papa." He and his father were not identified to the news media because other relatives had not been notified of the death. Residents venturing outside into the morning cold found the city paralysed and businesses closed.