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Powerful quake hits Guatemala, killing at least 48

SAN MARCOS, Guatemala — A 7.4-magnitude earthquake rocked Guatemala on Wednesday, killing at least 48 people as it toppled thick adobe walls, shook huge landslides down onto highways, and sent terrified villagers streaming into the streets of this idyllic mountain town near the border with Mexico. One hundred people were missing, and hundreds were injured.

The quake, which hit at 10:35 a.m. in the middle of the work day, caused terror over an unusually wide area, with damage reported in all but one of Guatemala’s 22 states and shaking felt as far away as Mexico City, 600 miles to the northwest.

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President Otto Perez Molina said that 40 people died in the state of San Marcos and eight more were killed in the neighboring state of Quetzaltenango.

San Marcos, where more than 30 homes collapsed, bore the brunt of the temblor.

More than 300 people, including firefighters, policemen, and villagers, tried to dig through a half ton of sand at a quarry in the commercial center of town in an attempt to rescue seven people believed buried alive. Among those under the sand was a 6-year-old boy who had accompanied his grandfather to work.

‘‘I want to see Giovanni! I want to see Giovanni!’’ the boy’s mother, 42-year-old Francisca Ramirez, frantically cried. ‘‘He’s not dead. Get him out.’’ She said the boy’s father had emigrated to the United States and there was no way to reach him.

The president said the government would pay for the funerals of all victims in the impoverished region.

The quake, which was 20 miles deep, was the strongest earthquake to hit Guatemala since a 1976 temblor that killed 23,000.

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