Guatemala scours for quake survivors, death toll expected to rise

Thu Nov 8, 2012 4:22pm EST
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By Jorge Dan and Milton Castillo

SAN MARCOS, Guatemala (Reuters) - Rescue workers on Thursday carted out dead bodies found under rubble in the aftermath of Guatemala's most powerful earthquake in decades, while others cleared wrecked cars and collapsed buildings as they searched for survivors.

At least 52 people were killed in the 7.5 magnitude quake on Wednesday, many of them crushed under debris in San Marcos state, a mountainous region near the Mexican border.

Nearly two dozen people were still missing and President Otto Perez forecast that the death toll would climb.

"Sadly we expect the number to keep rising," Perez told reporters in Guatemala City, adding that 22 people were missing and around 200 injured.

Emergency workers said they pulled seven people alive from rubble at a construction site on the outskirts of San Marcos city.

Lying in a hospital bed in obvious pain, Jesus Ramirez recounted how he tried to rescue his nieces and became trapped.

"My mother shouted to me to go and see my nieces ... I wanted to pull them out, but couldn't because the wall of my house fell on them and on me too," he said. "I lost my leg, they amputated it."

His mother and two nieces were later found dead.   Continued...

Rescuers carry the body of Cruz Abel De Leon, who died in a landslide triggered by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake, in El Recreo, in the outskirts of San Pedro Sacatepequez, in the San Marcos region, about 250 km (155 miles) south of Guatemala City, November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez