Residents begin clearing rubble from a damaged building after a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck in San Marcos, Guatemala, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. The mountain village, some 80 miles (130 kilometers) from the epicenter, suffered much of the damage with some 30 homes collapsing in its center. There are three confirmed dead and many missing after the strongest earthquake to hit Guatemala since a deadly 1976 quake that killed 23,000. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
By Mike McDonald | Reuters
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A strong earthquake off the coast of Guatemala shook buildings in the capital and killed at least 39 people on Wednesday, trapping others under rubble and triggering evacuations as far away as Mexico City.
The 7.4 magnitude quake hit at 10:35 a.m. local time (11:35 EDT). A local fire chief said at least some of the dead were buried under debris in a mountainous region near the Mexican border.
Landslides blocked roads in some areas, authorities said, and about 40 houses were severely damaged.
It was the strongest earthquake to hit Guatemala since a 7.5 magnitude quake in 1976 that claimed more than 20,000 lives.
President Otto Perez said that as many as 100 people were unaccounted for, based on reports from relatives.
"These are preliminary figures and we don't have them confirmed," Perez said in Guatemala City. "Our priority is to focus on lives, rescuing people and treating the wounded."
San Marcos state governor Luis Rivera confirmed the deaths of 39 people, adding that the state government offices were almost completely destroyed.
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