Quake slams Mexico, Guatemala; at least 3 dead

GUATEMALA CITY — A magnitude-6.9 earthquake on the Pacific Coast jolted a wide area of southern Mexico and Central America Monday, killing at least three people while damaging homes, hospitals and churches.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 6:23 a.m. (7:23 a.m. EDT; 11:23 GMT) on the Pacific Coast 1 mile (2 kilometers) north-northeast of Puerto Madero, near the Guatemala border. It initially calculated the magnitude at 7.1 but later lowered the figure to 6.9.

The national spokesman for local fire departments, Raul Hernandez, said at least two people died in their homes from collapsed walls in the Guatemalan town of Pati, in the border province of San Marcos, and another woman in Quetzaltenango died from a heart attack.

But Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said later in a press conference that the only officially confirmed death so far was of a newborn hit by a piece of false ceiling in a San Marcos hospital. He said it wasn’t clear if the woman’s heart attack was earthquake related.

Civil protection officials in the Mexican state of Chiapas raised the toll to two dead, and said at least a dozen people were injured by falling tiles and other debris.

Perez said the quake was felt in 12 of Guatemala’s 22 states. There were reports of power outages and rock slides on some roadways in Guatemala.

Photos posted on social media sites and published by the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre showed buildings with huge cracks across their facades in San Marcos, and one which apparently suffered a partial collapse.

Classes were suspended in at least three western states bordering Mexico.

In Chiapas, where the quake was centered, panicked people poured into the streets and the Red Cross said it was treating some frightened adults and children.

“I thought the house was going to collapse,” said Claudia Gonzales, 32, who ran to the street in the town of Comitan with her 1-year-old daughter.

The quake was felt across a broad swath of southern Mexico and as far away as Mexico City, but officials had no immediate reports of damage.

The quake was centered 37 miles (60 kilometers) beneath the surface.

In the city of Tapachula, near the epicenter, city employee Omar Santos said “buildings were moving, windows broke in some houses and businesses, and people ran through the streets in the dark.”

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