Guatemala suffered its worst earthquake in decades Wednesday, with at least 39 people dead and 155 injured, San Marcos state authorities said.
There were still 15 people buried under rubble in San Marcos, Governor Luis Rivera said. The district borders Mexico, where the quake was also felt, dpa reported.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina put the country on the highest alert, placed the military on standby and flying to the worst affected area. Damage was heaviest in San Marcos.
In the towns of San Pedro Sacatepequez, El Recuerdo, San Francisco, El Quetzal and other communities, numerous houses collapsed. In the neighbouring region of Quetzaltenango, adobe houses collapsed, killing four people and burying six others, rescuers working in the area said.
Guatemala's seismological institute Insuvimeh said the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.2. The US Geological Survey said the quake measured 7.5 on the Richter scale. The epicentre was almost 42 kilometres 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.
In Guatemala City, the quake caused panic and led to the evacuation of high buildings for fear of aftershocks. The quake cut phone lines in Guatemala for a time.
It was felt as far away as Mexico City, though no damage was immediately reported in Mexico.
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 caused no damage.
Thousands of people fled Mexico City buildings after the quakes, which rattled lamps and furniture. 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 that killed an estimated 10,000 people.