Deadly Earthquake Strikes Off Guatemala Coast
Map of earthquake location today (Nov. 7, 2012) near Guatemala.
Credit: USGS.

A powerful earthquake of preliminary magnitude 7.4 struck today off the Pacific coast of Guatemala, reportedly killing at least 39 people.

San Marcos, the state at Guatemala's northwestern border with Mexico, bore the brunt of the damage, with landslides and building collapses trapping people in rubble, the Associated Press reported. The earthquake was the strongest to hit Guatemala since 1976 when a deadly temblor killed 23,000.

The quake's epicenter was 15 miles (24 km) southwest of the coastal town of Champerico, Guatemala, and 101 miles (163 km) west-southwest of Guatemala City, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). It originated 25 miles (41 km) deep and struck at 10:35 a.m. local time (1635 UTC), the USGS reports.

On land, events of this size can cause localized devastation, especially to poorly built structures. Even well built structures can be heavily damaged or destroyed. Earthquakes of this size are often followed by significant and potentially severe aftershocks. Already two aftershocks 5.0 in magnitude struck the region since this morning.

An earthquake's magnitude is a measure of the energy released at the source. It is just one predictor of the shaking that may ensue, which is affected by local and regional geology. Scientists know in a general sense what causes Earthquakes but are unable to predict specific quakes.

This article will be updated if significant additional information becomes available. Find more earthquake news here.