May 18, 2013
Guatemala scours for quake survivors, death toll expected to rise
Rescue workers today carted out dead bodies found under rubble in the aftermath of Guatemala's most powerful earthquake in decades, while others cleared wrecked cars and collapsed buildings as they searched for survivors.
At least 52 people were killed in the 7.5 magnitude quake yesterday, many of them crushed under debris in San Marcos state, a mountainous region near the Mexican border.
Nearly two dozen people were still missing and President Otto Perez forecast that the death toll would climb.
"Sadly we expect the number to keep rising," Perez told reporters in Guatemala City, adding that 22 people were missing and around 200 injured.
Emergency workers said they pulled seven people alive from rubble at a construction site on the outskirts of San Marcos city.
On the outskirts of San Marcos city, rescuers stepped up efforts at a collapsed construction site. Emergency workers in white hard hats used tractors and trucks to shift debris blocking roads. Cars were crushed, highways were peppered with gaping cracks and modest homes had crumbled.
"The people of San Marcos are in deep mourning," said Wilfred de Leon, one of whose relatives was buried by rubble and feared dead.
The quake destroyed roads and forced evacuations as far away as Mexico City. However output and exports of staple crop coffee were not affected, Ricardo Villanueva, president of Guatemala's national coffee association Anacafe, said.
Guatemala is Central America's second biggest coffee producer.
It was the strongest earthquake to hit the Central American nation since 1976, when a 7.5-magnitude quake killed more than 20,000 people.