A 7.4—magnitude earthquake struck Wednesday off the coast of Guatemala near the Mexican border, the US Geological Service reported, killing at least thirty eight people in the Central American country.

Ten people remained missing late Wednesday in Guatemala.

The quake’s epicentre was almost 42 kilometres deep under the Caribbean Sea, 56 kilometres south—west of Retalhuleu, Guatemala, and 61 kilometres south—east of Suchiate, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, USGS said.

Rescue teams confirmed that eight people, including a 7—year—old girl, were killed in Guatemala.

Most of the damage happened in the western Guatemalan province of San Marcos, on the Mexican border, where according to the fire department scores of homes made of adobe suffered serious damage and the province of Quetzaltenango, Guatemalan President Otto Perez said.

In Guatemala City, the quake caused widespread panic and led to the evacuation of high buildings for fear of aftershocks.

The quake cut off phone lines in Guatemala, although they were later restored.

It was also felt in Mexico as far away as Mexico City, although no damage was immediately reported in that country.

Three minutes later, an aftershock measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale caused panic and evacuations in central and southern Mexico.

The aftershock’s epicentre was 15 kilometres south—east of Rio Grande in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. It also caused no damage.

Thousands of people left Mexico City buildings after the quakes, which caused lamps and furniture to shake. Helicopters flew over the city to establish potential damage and the underground service was temporarily suspended.

Mexico City was ravaged in 1985 by a quake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, followed by a 7.3 aftershock that killed an estimated 10,000 people.

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