An earthquake has struck off the coast of Guatemala, killing 48 people. The temblor caused evacuations as far north as Mexico City and a tsunami alert down south in El Salvador.
Landslides blocked roads in some areas, authorities said, and about 40 houses were severely damaged. The US Geological Survey reported that the 7.4-magnitude earthquake had struck at 10:35 a.m. local time 163 kilometers (101 miles) west-southwest of the capital, Guatemala City. The depth was about 42 kilometers under the sea.
As many as 48 people were killed by the earthquake and a further 155 were injured.
The Mexican Seismological Service announced that nine aftershocks followed. The earthquake and its aftershocks were strongly felt in Guatemala City and southern Mexico, prompting scenes of panic across the region.
People evacuated homes, schools and office buildings as far north as Mexico City, where one metro line there was even briefly suspended. Buildings were evacuated in the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, though there were no reports of victims or damage.
'Constantly exposed to threats'
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center announced that any tsunami threat was localized to a potential radius of about 100 kilometers. However, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes ordered evacuations in Puerto de la Libertad and other western coastal towns.
"This country is constantly exposed to threats ... and this time the threat is a tsunami on the Salvadoran coast, especially the western beaches," Funes said.
The Salvadoran Environmental Observatory also issued a tsunami alert for the coastal districts of Ahuachapan and Sonsonate. However, Daysi Lopez, the observatory's spokeswoman, said that any disasters would be localized: "We are not talking about a tsunami of a large magnitude."
The quake comes just two months after a 7.6-magnitude temblor shook Costa Rica, though that one caused no casualties or injuries.
The earthquake was Guatemala's strongest since a 7.5-magnitude in 1976 killed more than 20,000 people. In 1985, Mexico City was hit by an 8.1 earthquake, followed by a 7.3 aftershock, killing an estimated 10,000 people.
mkg/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)