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6.8 magnitude earthquake strikes off Guatemalan coast

Story Highlights

• Earthquake strikes 70 miles from Guatemala City
• All phone lines down, according to nation's disaster coordination agency
• High-rise buildings being evacuated in case there are aftershocks
• Pacific-wide tsunami not expected, according to NOAA
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(CNN) -- A 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Wednesday just off the Pacific coast of Guatemala, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Early reports indicated some homes were damaged and people may be missing, journalist Patzy Vazquez told CNN en Espaņol.

Hugo Hernandez, the executive director of the National Coordination for Disaster, said there were no immediate reports of injuries, but all phone lines were down.

Officials were using radios to communicate, according to Benedicto Giron, a spokesman for the disaster coordination agency.

Authorities were evacuating high-rise buildings and homes that might be vulnerable to damage if there were aftershocks, but none had been reported to the USGS so far, the agency's Rafael Abreu told CNN.

The quake struck at 1:29 p.m. (3:29 p.m. ET), about 70 miles from the capital, Guatemala City.

The quake's intensity, according to the USGS, was such that it was also felt in El Salvador.

The quake's epicenter was about 40 miles below the Earth's surface, the USGS said. Earthquakes centered closer to the surface generally can cause more damage.

In this case, the quake's depth and distance from shore are likely to limit the extent of the damage, Abreu said. "Had it been closer to the surface, then you would expect, certainly, more critical effects," he said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said a Pacific-wide tsunami was not expected.

The disaster coordination team was trying to contact local municipalities, Giron said.

Earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or greater are considered "strong" by the USGS.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers noted that seismographs on Midway Island -- in the north Pacific, some 1,800 miles away from Guatemala City -- registered the earthquake.

The seismograph detected the shaking about seven minutes after the quake struck, he said.

On Friday, a 5.8-magnitude quake struck offshore Guatemala in almost the same spot, the USGS said. Its epicenter was about 60 miles from Guatemala City.


The earthquake struck about 70 miles from the capital, Guatemala City.




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