GUATEMALA CITY – A powerful earthquake shook Guatemala and parts of El Salvador Wednesday, causing some residents of the capital cities to rush from buildings into the streets for safety, officials said.
The 6.8-magnitude quake snarled traffic in Guatemala City but there were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries.
Aid workers across Guatemala reported only minor damage to homes in a couple of rural communities, according to Francois de la Roche, Latin America’s director for humanitarian and emergency affairs for the aid organization World Vision.
“I didn’t notice it at first but then felt this long, swaying motion back and forward,” de la Roche said in a telephone interview from Antigua, Guatemala.
The quake struck at 1:29 p.m. and was centered 70 miles southwest of Guatemala City off the Pacific coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Guatemala’s seismology institute said the quake lasted 49 seconds.
In Guatemala City, people fled buildings into the streets, throwing traffic into chaos in the sprawling city.
“It rattled a lot of nerves,” said Benedicto Giron, spokesman for the National Disaster Reduction Center.
Outside the capital, landslides were reported in the southwest province of Escuintla, but they apparently caused no casualties, Giron said. He added, however, that phone service was knocked out in some areas and information was only trickling in slowly.
The quake was also felt strongly in neighboring El Salvador, where people ran into the streets in the capital of San Salvador, but the Red Cross there said it had no reports of damage or injuries.