Photo provided by the radio La Red Deportiva shows residents standing near debris after an earthquake in San marcos, Guatemala, on Nov. 7, 2012. The death toll from the 7.4-magnitude earthquake that shook Guatemala on Wednesday rose to 29 and authorities warn that it could continue to rise, because 100 other people remain missing. (Xinhua/radio La Red Deportiva)
MEXICO CITY, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from the 7.4- magnitude earthquake that shook Guatemala on Wednesday rose to 29 and authorities warn that it could continue to rise, because 100 other people remain missing.
Aroldo Rivera, governor of the northwestern department of San Marcos, bordering Mexico, told local media that 29 people were dead and 155 wounded in the earthquake in the area.
The official said the deaths reported so far correspond to the department of San Marcos, the most affected area by the earthquake, adding that according to preliminary assessments, at least 135 houses in that area of the country were destroyed.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has earlier said at a press conference that more than 15 people were dead and 100 missing in the earthquake, which also left dozens of homes collapsed and roads cut, especially in the southwestern region of the country.
Molina said that the quake caused damage in several departments, including San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Solola and also in the capital Guatemala City. He also deployed 2,000 troops to assist in relief efforts in the affected region.
Meanwhile, local relief agencies said Wednesday that the death toll may be higher. Guatemala's National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction has reported one death in San Marcos, where have registered major damage during the quake.
Eddy Sanchez, director of the Guatemala's National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (Insivumhe), told reporters that the quake had a magnitude of 7.2 degrees on the Richter scale.
The director said the quake's epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean off the beaches of Champerico, in the department of Retalhuleu, 34 miles (54.4 kilometers) deep and at a distance of 200 kilometers southwest of Guatemala City.
The USGS has said the quake was at 7.4 magnitude and struck at 1635 GMT at a depth of 41 km, with its epicenter in the Pacific Ocean, about 24 km southwest of Champerico, Guatemala.
Thousands of Guatemalan people have taken to the streets in fear of a new earthquake, and employees of public buildings have been evacuated for safety.
There's no tsunami threat to the Pacific region from this quake, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center's latest bulletin.
Earlier on Wednesday, Molina has decreed a red alert across the country.
"Red alert is declared across the country, public activities are suspended and we recommended that all buildings be evacuated. We await official data and information in order to provide necessary assistance to all those affected," said the president.
Guatemala's Communication Ministry has reported at least five large-scale landslides throughout American Highway, adding that the passage will be restored in the coming hours, while Communication Minister Alejandro Sinibaldir told Xinhua that there are several roadblocks due to landslides, and the worst happened in the highway to San Marcos and is expected to clear the road in 24 hours.
Social network users in Guatemala confirmed that the move was sensible in Guatemala City, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Alta Verapaz, Quetzaltenango, Suchitepequez, Zacapa, Escuintla and Quich .
Some users reported the fall of telephone lines, power failure and fall of houses in different parts of the country, reported the local daily of Prensa Libren its online edition.
The quake was also felt In Mexico and Salvador and activated alarms in these two countries.
In Mexico City, thousands of people left offices and schools according to evacuation plans. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said through his twitter account that the quake was felt apparently in parts of the Mexican capital. He said there is no damage reported yet and invited citizens to undertake necessary evacuations.
"We are checking facilities as planned by helicopter patrols and cameras," Ebrard said.
In Salvador dozens of people took to the streets after the earthquake. So far neither the authorities nor the relief agencies in El Salvador have reported casualties or damage.
This is the strongest earthquake ever happened in Guatemala since Feb. 4, 1976 when a magnitude-7.5 earthquake left nearly 23, 000 people dead, 76,000 wounded and more than a million people homeless.