An earthquake shook the Pacific coast of Guatemala early this morning, leaving at least 5 dead and 7 injured.
The earthquake struck at 1:30am, 9.3 miles northwest of San Marcos, near the Mexican border. Rubble from a falling wall killed one woman in San Marcos, and a collapsed church killed a homeless man in nearby San Sebastián, Retalhueleu. Three women died of heart attacks resulting from the fright of the earthquake awakening them in the night.
President Jimmy Morales tweeted this morning, asking citizens to stay calm and alert to the possibility of aftershocks while they awaited more official information.
“We greatly mourn the loss of lives,” he said.
Depth and Reach of the Earthquake
At 111km (69 miles) deep, and relatively far inland, there is no threat of a tsunami, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. Shallower earthquakes cause more damage and are typically more hazardous.
The quake was felt by about 12 million people across Guatemala and Mexico. It even awakened people in the capital, Guatemala City, about 154 miles away, where there is so far no reported damage.
The epicenter was reported to be close to the base of Volcán Tajumulco, a dormant volcano and the highest mountain in Central America.
Mudslides, power outages, and damage to homes and buildings have been reported across Retalhuleu, Quetzaltenango and Suchitepequez departments. Schools will be closed today as officials inspect the damage.
The most toll seems to have been taken on the mud and straw houses of the region’s poorer citizens. The area surrounding Volcán Tajumulco is rural and sparsely populated.
A Major Earthquake Zone
The earthquake peaked after a series of smaller quakes struck at sea near the Mexican state of Chiapas. An aftershock followed about 20 minutes after the main earthquake.
Guatemala lies on a major faultline, where the Caribbean tectonic plate meets the Cocos plate. This makes it susceptible to earthquakes, which are unpredictable. San Marcos was also the site of a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in 2012, which killed 48 people.