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One dead, others missing after three quakes hit Guatemala

September 20, 2011

GUATEMALA CITY – A 5.8 magnitude quake and two smaller temblors struck near the capital of Guatemala on Monday, killing at least one person said officials, revising an earlier statement that three had died.

“For the moment, we regrettably have to report the loss of one life in the town of Las Animas” about 100 kilometers south of Guatemala City, said Alejandro Maldonado, a federal official in charge of disaster preparedness.

Three other people earlier reported dead in the town of Cuilapa are currently being provisionally designated as “missing,” said Maldonado.

Authorities said mudslides were reported in some areas after hillsides saturated by recent rains gave way.

Landslides cut off access to one of the country’s major highways that leads to El Salvador, authorities said, and in some areas, dogs were being used to locate victims who might not yet have been discovered.

Maldonado urged the Guatemalan public not to panic.

“We put out a call to the public to remain calm,” he said, adding that in the view of officials the worst is over and “the situation is under control.”

Seismologists at the United States Geological Survey said the biggest of the three quakes hit at around 12:34 p.m. time, and was detected at a depth of 39 kilometers with its epicenter 52 kilometers southeast of the capital.

It was preceded and followed by smaller, but still sizable temblors, both measuring a 4.8 magnitude.

The quakes were felt as far away as neighboring El Salvador, but there were no reports there of injuries or damage.

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