A 7.4-magnitude earthquake rocked Guatemala, killing at least 48 people in two states.
It toppled thick adobe walls, shook huge landslides on to highways, and sent terrified villagers streaming into the streets of San Marcos, an idyllic mountain town near the border with Mexico.
One hundred people were missing and hundreds injured.
The quake, which hit at 10.35am on Wednesday, caused terror over an unusually wide area, with damage reported in all but one of Guatemala's 22 states and shaking felt as far away as Mexico City, 600 miles to the north west.
President Otto Perez Molina said 40 people died in the state of San Marcos and eight more were killed in the neighbouring state of Quetzaltenango.
San Marcos, where more than 30 homes collapsed, bore the brunt of the temblor's fury.
More than 300 people, including firefighters, policemen and villagers, tried to dig through a half ton of sand at a quarry in the commercial centre of town in a desperate attempt to rescue seven people believed buried alive. Among those under the sand was a six-year-old boy who had accompanied his grandfather to work.
In the town of San Cristobal Cochu, firefighters were trying to dig out 10 members of one family, including a four-year-old child, who were buried when their house collapsed, fire department spokesman Ovidio Perez said.
The quake, which was 20 miles deep, was centred 15 miles off the coastal town of Champerico and 100 miles south west of Guatemala City. It was the strongest earthquake to hit Guatemala since a 1976 temblor that killed 23,000.
Officials said most of 100 missing were from San Marcos. The mainly indigenous inhabitants farm corn and herd cattle, mostly for their own survival. Hospital officials in San Marcos said they had received 150 injured.