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Guatemala quake death toll rises to at least 52, felt as far away as Mexico City

At least 52 people are dead after a strong 7.4-magnitude quake struck off Guatemala, causing buildings to shake as far away as Mexico City.

The death toll from a strong earthquake that hit off the Pacific coast of Guatemala on Wednesday has risen to at least 52, with nearly two dozen people still unaccounted for, CNN reported.

Local reports said at least 150 additional people were injured.

The 7.4-magnitude quake struck mid-morning local time, destroying dozens of homes, crushing cars and shaking buildings as far away as Mexico City and El Salvador, the Associated Press and Reuters reported. 

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina announced the death toll after returning to the capital Guatemala City from a visit to the northwestern state of San Marcos, where most of the damage occurred. Initial reports put the death toll at 15.

"It's very sad to meet people here who are waiting to find their families who are still buried," Perez was quoted by Reuters as saying. "It's really a tragedy and we will do all we can to help the families that are suffering."

The quake, about 20 miles deep, was centered about 15 miles from the coastal city of Champerico, the US Geological Survey reported. It struck at 10:35 a.m. (11:35 EDT).

CNN reported that it was the strongest tremor to strike Guatemala since the 7.5-magnitude temblor in 1976. More than 20,000 people were killed in that disaster.

Perez Molina declared a “national alert” and said people in quake-hit areas should evacuate tall buildings, the BBC reported.

The Mexican Seismological Service said nine aftershocks followed the initial quake, which it first put at a magnitude of 7.3, the Agence France-Presse reported. 

The Wall Street Journal said there were no reports of a tsunami.