The death toll from a huge earthquake in Guatemala rose to 39 this morning, President Otto Perez said, as he toured the disaster area in the south-west of the country.
"We have to lament the death of 39 people. It is a tragedy," Mr Perez told reporters, raising the toll after preliminary reports of 15 deaths.
The magnitude 7.4 quake, which hit in the early hours of this morning (Australian time), destroyed buildings in several towns, shook the capital Guatemala City, and forced evacuations as far away as Mexico City.
A local fire chief said the dead were buried under rubble in three different Guatemalan towns.
Landslides were blocking roads in some areas, authorities said, and about 40 houses were severely damaged after the earthquake hit at 10:35 am local time.
It was the strongest earthquake to hit Guatemala since a magnitude 7.5 quake in 1976 that claimed more than 20,000 lives.
The quake struck off Guatemala's Pacific coast, 24 kilometres south of Champerico, Guatemala, and 163 kilometres west-south-west of the capital, the US Geological Survey said.
A witness in Guatemala City said people were returning to work after evacuations, which filled the streets with office workers, calling friends and relatives on their mobile phones.
"It was really big, I felt quite nauseous," Vanessa Castillo, 32, who was evacuated from her 10th-floor office in Guatemala City, said.
The epicentre was 42 kilometres below the surface, according to the USGS, which initially reported the quake as magnitude 7.5.
The quake was also felt in El Salvador and more than 1,000 kilometres away in Mexico City, where some office workers were also briefly evacuated.
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said the quake was felt strongly in a large part of the city of 20 million people.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said a very small tsunami was registered on Guatemala's coast, adding there was a risk of localised damage within a 100 kilometre radius.