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Powerful earthquake kills 39 in Guatemala

– A 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck off the Pacific coast of Guatemala on Wednesday, killing at least 39 people as it ravaged a small state near the Mexican border, the country’s president said.

The mountain village of San Marcos, 80 miles from the epicenter, suffered much of the damage, with about 30 homes collapsing in its center. Hundreds of frightened villagers were on the streets, one of which was cracked open by the temblor, the strongest to hit Guatemala since a deadly 1976 quake that killed 23,000.

More than 300 people, including firefighters, policemen and villagers, worked at a sand extraction site to rescue seven people reported buried alive, including a 6-year-old boy that had accompanied his grandfather to work.

“I want to see Giovanni! I want to see Giovanni!” the boy’s mother, Francisca Ramirez, frantically cried. “He’s not dead. Get him out.”

President Otto Perez Molina told a news conference that he has been informed that the death toll stands at 39 people. The dead are in the northwest state of San Marcos near the Mexican border, where the majority of the damage occurred.

The quake, about 20 miles deep, was centered about 15 miles off the coastal town of Champerico and about 100 miles southwest of Guatemala City, shaking buildings as far away as Mexico City and El Salvador.

Survivors by radio and social media talked of widespread landslides and people trapped.

“I’ve been in Guatemala for almost two years. I am used to earthquakes. This was a lot more severe, a lot more shaky,” said Peace Corps volunteer Adam Baker, 27, of Carmel, Ind. “Things fell in my kitchen.”

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