On 4 February 1976, an earthquake struck Guatemala. The earthquake had its epicenter about 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Guatemala City, Guatemala, and originated from the Motagua Fault in Gualan. The 1976 Guatemala earthquake registered a 7.5 on the moment magnitude scale. At least 23,000 were killed, about 76,000 were injured, and about 250,000 homes were destroyed, leaving approximately one million people homeless. The earthquake struck at 3:01 am local time, when most people were asleep in their beds; most believe this to be the reason for this quake’s unusually large death toll.
The earthquake and its aftershocks caused landslides, flooding and power outages throughout Guatemala and the neighboring country of Honduras. Cities and villages in both countries were affected, and the shocks were felt as far away as Mexico City, Mexico.
Much of the devastation to property occurred due to the widespread use of adobe as housing material. These adobe homes were unable to withstand the earthquake and its aftershocks.
The international community responded to the disaster with monetary and military aid. The U.S. government contributed $6 million in emergency aid, with private citizens voluntarily contributing an additional $15 million within the first six days after the quake. U.S. Army helicopters helped distribute supplies to remote communities and the U.S. military helped the Guatemalan army maintain order. The Organization of American States contributed $500,000, and food, doctors, medical supplies and relief workers arrived from most Latin American countries.