Guatemala powerful earthquake causes panic

A powerful earthquake that shook Guatemala caused widespread panic but left both countries virtually unscathed.

"Besides some landslides, the only other damage confirmed has been a wall that collapsed at a home under construction," Ana Luis Olmedo, spokeswoman for the National Disaster Reduction Center, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Eddy Sanchez, director of the Guatemala's seismology institute, said several aftershocks have been felt since the 6.8-magnitude quake struck Wednesday afternoon southwest of Guatemala City.

Gabriel Arana said she was cooking when the earthquake caused the corrugated metal roof on her shack to flap up and down like a flag at 1:29 p.m. local time (1929 GMT) Wednesday.

"We're used to earthquakes but this was really scary," she said.

The quake was centered 70 miles (115 kilometers) 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 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.

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.

It was also felt in the Mexican city of Tapachula along the Guatemalan border.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center based in Hawaii said no tsunami was expected from the quake.

The region is prone to earthquakes. Almost 23,000 people died in a 1976 earthquake in Guatemala.

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