San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemala quake death toll increases to 42

GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemalan rescuers searched Thursday for people trapped in the ruins of homes after a powerful earthquake killed 42 people and left thousands spending the cold night outside.

Twenty-two people were still missing a day after the magnitude-7.4 quake in the southwestern region of San Marcos toppled homes and cut off power in several towns.

The search had been called off during the night for safety reasons.

Thousands of people in the town of San Marcos wrapped themselves in blankets to keep warm outside overnight as aftershocks continued to rock the mountainous region. Rescuers found three more bodies in the town of San Cristobal Cucho on Thursday and another one in El Recreo, an emergency response spokesman said.

President Otto Pérez Molina said Thursday the death toll had risen to 42. Power was restored in 95 percent of homes, he added.

The San Marcos Department, located at the border with Mexico and some 250 kilometers west of Guatemala City, bore the brunt of the earthquake, which crushed cars and spread debris on roads.

In San Cristobal Cucho, an entire family of 10, including six children, died when their home was buried in rocks and earth that slid from a hill after the quake, Mayor Pedro Cardona said.

Some 16,000 people were affected by the temblor, which was the country’s most violent seismic event since 1976, when almost 23,000 people perished. Authorities opened 11 shelters that can house 800 people.

The earthquake was felt as far away as El Salvador and Mexico City. Thousands of people fled homes, offices and schools in the Mexican capital when the quake hit on Wednesday morning.

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