GUATEMALA CITY -- A major earthquake inflicted heavy damage in Guatemala City Wednesday and strong temblors rocked Salvador and Honduras. Heavy loss of life was feared in this city of 800,000 where hundreds of houses were reported destroyed.
The death toll in Guatemala City was not immediately established. First reports said 50 persons were killed. A Guatemala City radio station said as many as 300 bodies had been found and an American relief agency said as many as 500 were killed.
William Salas, the CARE director in . Guatemala, reported to his New York office: "Estimated dead in Guatamela City 500, and 2,000 injured, and the toll is going up. The heart of the city is reported 50 per cent destroyed."
Hundreds of houses were reported destroyed when the earthquake struck, sending thousands of citizens running through the streets in panic.
A Guatemala City radio station heard in Bogota, Colombia reported that firemen had recovered at least 300 bodies and that both the Hotel Ritz Continental and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Guatemala had suffered heavy damage.
The quake, which registered 7.5 points on the open-ended Richter Scale, first struck at 4:06 a.m. EST and aftershocks were being felt four hours later.
President Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua, who directed relief after a Dec. 23, 1972 quake killed 10,000 persons in the capital of his country, immediately flew to Guatemala City to offer his advice and aid to President Kjell Laugerud of Guatemala.
When the quake struck, many citizens fled their homes to seek refuge in their parked cars, the streets littered with shattered glass from smashed windows. In the area where this correspondent lives, wide cracks opened in the streets.
Electricity, telephone and water services were knocked out by the quake, but they wure resumed two hours later.
Aurora International airport was closed for more than three hours but reopened when a check showed the runways had suffered damage.