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Guatemalan earthquake nearly wipes out family

Death toll at 52 after 10 of 11 members of Vasquez family killed

By Sonia Perez D. And Michael Weissenstein

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8 2012 6:43 p.m. MST

The Vasquezes were the only ones to die in San Cristobal Cucho. Like the rest of several thousand people in town, the Vasquez family was humble, the parents without much education. Most of the people in the town are subsistence farmers or sell things on the streets and in the markets.

The oldest son, Ivan, was too distraught to speak or even stay at the house among the mourners.

"He was a very good father, he was a very good neighbor," said Antonia Lopez, who was among the many paying respects.

Guatemalans fearing aftershocks huddled in the streets of the nearby city San Marcos, the most affected area. Others crowded inside its hospital, the only building in town left with electricity.

More than 90 rescue workers continued to dig with backhoes at a half-ton mound of sand at a second quarry that buried seven people.

"We started rescue work very early," said Julio Cesar Fuentes of the municipal fire department. "The objective is our hope to find people who were buried."

But they uncovered only more dead. One man was called to the quarry to identify his dead father. When he climbed into the sand pit and recognized the clothing, the son collapsed onto the shoulders of firefighters, crying: "Papa, Papa, Papa."

He and his father were not identified to the news media because other relatives had not been notified of the death.

Volunteers carrying boxes of medical supplies began arriving in the area in western Guatemala late Wednesday.

The quake, which was 20 miles deep, was centered 15 miles off the coastal town of Champerico and 100 miles southwest of Guatemala City. It was the strongest earthquake to hit Guatemala since a 1976 temblor that killed 23,000.

Perez said more than 2,000 soldiers were deployed to help with the disaster. A plane had made at least two trips to carry relief teams to the area. The U.S. State Department said it was sending some $50,000 in immediate disaster relief, including clean water, fuel and blankets. It also said it had offered U.S. helicopters if needed.

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