Strong 6.9-magnitude earthquake hits Guatemala-Mexico border

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A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 has struck near the city of San Marcos in Guatemala, centered close to the border with Mexico, seismologists say. There are initial reports of damage and several injuries.

The earthquake, which struck at 1:29 a.m. local time on Wednesday, was centered near the Tajumulco Volcano, about 13.2 kilometers (8.2 miles) northwest of San Marcos in Guatemala, or 37 kilometers (23 miles) northeast of Tapachula in Mexico.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the preliminary magnitude of the earthquake at 6.9, while seismologists in Mexico and Guatemala put the magnitude at 7.0 and 6.6, respectively. They said it struck at a depth of roughly 100 kilometers (62 miles), making it a relatively deep earthquake.

Residents said the earthquake was felt across the region and woke up many people, but there was no immediate word on the extent of damage and casualties. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a tsunami along the coast.

Photos showed some damage in both Guatemala and Mexico, and a local reporter in Guatemala said that several people had been injured at two locations. One woman was injured in a fall on the Mexican side, according to the civil protection agency in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales took to Twitter just minutes after the earthquake. “There has been a strong earthquake in our city, please keep calm and be on alert for possible aftershocks,” he said, referring to shaking which was felt in the capital, Guatemala City.

Computer models from the USGS estimated that some 45.6 million people across the region may have felt Wednesday’s earthquake, including 997,000 people who may have perceived “strong” shaking. Moderate shaking was felt across the capital city.

“Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are a mix of vulnerable and earthquake resistant construction,” the USGS said in its assessment. The computer model predicted that damage and casualties were likely.

“Wow what a shaker this one was,” a resident in Panajachel, about 77 kilometers (48 miles) southeast of the epicenter, told EMSC. “Even the electricity went out for a little bit and that never happens in all the earthquakes I’ve experienced here. All of my dogs went nuts and started running around and barking.”

Guatemala is on the so-called ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. A 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Guatemala in November 2012, killing at least 39 people.

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