Powerful quake flattens church in Guatemala

  • 15/06/2017
A woman walks past debris of a house damaged by an earthquake
A woman walks past debris of a house damaged by an earthquake. Photo credit: Reuters

A strong earthquake has hit southwestern Guatemala near the border with Mexico, killing one person after a church collapsed and cutting power, officials say.

The 6.9-magnitude quake struck in the early hours of Wednesday, damaging buildings in the neighbouring southern Mexican state of Chiapas, authorities said, but there were no immediate reports of deaths in Mexico.

"The earthquake was felt throughout the national territory and damage assessment has begun," said Julio Sanchez, spokesman for Guatemala's national disaster centre.

The earthquake hit 15km west-northwest of the city of San Marcos, at a relatively deep 111km, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported. The shallower the quake, the more dangerous it could be.

An aftershock struck around 20 minutes later, the agency said.

Power went off in the Guatemalan departments of Retalhuleu, Quetzaltenango and Suchitepequez, authorities said. A church collapsed in San Sebastian, Retalhuleu, killing one person, emergency services reported.

The Civil Protection Authority in Mexico's Chiapas posted photos on Twitter showing damaged buildings and homes.

The USGS initially reported the quake, which struck when many residents were asleep, as a magnitude 7.0.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that based on available data there was no tsunami threat from the quake.

In late 2012, a far shallower 7.4-magnitude quake off the coast of Guatemala near the Mexican border killed at least 48 people and trapped others under rubble.