The number of confirmed deaths from the magnitude-7.4 earthquake that jolted Guatemala stands at 52 and another 22 people remain missing, officials said Thursday.
More than 1 million Guatemalans were affected in some way by the temblor, President Otto Perez Molina said during a press conference at the headquarters of the disaster management agency, Conred.
He announced the declaration of a "state of calamity" in the provinces of San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Quiche and Huehuetenango, aimed at enabling authorities to respond quickly to needs as they arise.
"Sadly, the number of dead is going up," the president said.
More than 8,000 people have been forced from their homes and many residences were destroyed or damaged beyond repair, he said.
The quake, which struck at 10:35 a.m. Wednesday, was the strongest to hit Guatemala since the Feb. 4, 1976, magnitude-7.5 temblor that claimed the lives of more than 25,000 people and caused millions of dollars in damage.
The epicenter of Wednesday's seismic event was located offshore, 24 kilometers (14 miles) south of the Pacific coast town of Champerico, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The quake was also felt strongly in El Salvador and parts of southeastern Mexico. EFE