The earth shook violently in Central America Wednesday morning, as a 7.5 magnitude quake took over the Pacific coast of Guatemala, rocking the capital and shaking buildings as far away as Mexico City and El Salvador.
According to Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, 39 people died buried under rubble in three different Guatemalan towns.
Landslides were blocking roads in some areas, authorities said, and about 40 houses had been severely damaged in the quake, which occurred at 10.35 am local time.
The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was a possibility of a local tsunami, within 100 or 200 miles of the epicenter, but they were not issuing an immediate warning for the broader region. The earthquake, about 20 miles deep, was centered off the town of Champerico.
Nicaragua's disaster management said it had issued a local tsunami alert, but there were no immediate reports of a tsunami on the country's Pacific coast.
People fled buildings in Guatemala City, in Mexico City and in the capital of the Mexican state of Chiapas, across the border from Guatemala.
A reporter in the town of San Marcos, about 80 miles north of the epicenter, told local radio station Emisoras Unidas that houses had collapsed onto residents and smashed televisions and other appliances had been scattered into the streets.
The local fire department said on its Twitter account that a school had collapsed and eight injured people had been taken to a nearby hospital. Local radio reported widespread power outages and cuts in telephone service.
A spokesman for El Salvador's Red Cross branch told The Associated Press that the quake had been felt throughout the country, sending people fleeing their homes in the capital, but there had been no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage. He said there had been no local tsunami warning issued.
El Salvador's Civil Protection agency said officials were evacuating some coastal communities as a precautionary measure.
The mayor of Mexico City said no serious damage or injuries had been reported in the city, although many people had fled their offices and homes during the quake.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.