A moderate earthquake rocked Central America on Friday, causing the collapse of a rain-damaged highway bridge in Guatemala and sending thousands of frightened Salvadoran residents into the streets.
There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries from the quake, measured at a magnitude of 5.8, in either of the two countries, where more than 200 people have died during five days of floods and landslides. A magnitude-5 earthquake can cause considerable damage.
Telephone service was cut off briefly in some areas of El Salvador, and Interior Minister Rene Figueroa urged residents to obey evacuation orders for high-risk areas.
The death toll throughout Central America from flooding and landslides has reached 258 with 177 killed in Guatemala, 67 in El Salvador, and 14 in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua combined.
With food and water running out, governments in Central America and Mexico scrambled to reach isolated areas devastated by a week of intense rain, with residents saying panic was starting to grow among survivors.
The earthquake struck before residents had even begun to recover from the storms, which included Hurricane Stan's landfall Tuesday in Mexico's Gulf Coast state of Veracruz before it weakened into a tropical depression.
"We need food, clothing, medicine and help," said Lucas Ajpus, a former firefighter coordinating rescue efforts in Santiago Atitlan, a Guatemalan city.
At least 50 bodies have been recovered. Workers continued to search for more than 100 people still missing.
In Pathulul, 30 miles from Santiago Atitlan, creeks that normally stream down from the highlands had turned into raging rivers.
Guatemalan officials had organized an air-rescue squad of their own helicopters as well as those lent by the United States and neighboring Mexico. But poor weather prevented them from taking off until Friday.
"Water is running out, food is running out and looters are coming now," said Stephanie Jolluck, a 32-year-old businesswoman from Atlanta who was reached by telephone in the town of Panajachel.
More than 270 communities in Guatemala have been affected by the floods and landslides, forcing the evacuation of more than 30,000 people, officials said.
In El Salvador, more than 62,000 people had been evacuated, including 5,000 removed Friday.
President Vicente Fox of Mexico was to make a second trip Friday to the city of Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala, where a river overflowed, carrying away houses and people, washing out bridges and cutting off communications.
Forecasters predicted heavy rain for the weekend.
Shelters were packed with families, including some with small babies. Doctors attended to some people, but many complained there was not enough food, clothing or other basic supplies.