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Indonesia earthquake: Rescue teams refocus on survivors

Aid workers say they are unlikely to rescue more people after Wednesday's devastating earthquake. They are racing to deliver supplies to survivors, though roads remain blocked and phone lines cut.

Villagers grab bottles of drinking water supplied by a volunteer in Pariaman town in Indonesia's West Sumatra's province on Sunday.

Dadang Tri / Reuters

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Indonesian and foreign rescue teams are continuing to claw through the rubble in search of survivors from Wednesday's earthquake off Sumatra island. But, as hopes fade of finding more people alive, government officials said the aid effort should focus on those left destitute by the disaster.

Inland from Padang, the worst-hit city on the coast, relief teams are finding more destroyed villages as well as some buried by mudslides after the 7.6-magnitude quake. The devastation in outlying areas, as well as the hundreds of collapsed houses and high-rise buildings in Padang, make it likely that the final death toll will be in the thousands, up from the official tally of 715.

Many towns and villages north and east of Padang were left out of early relief efforts, because roads were blocked and telephone lines cut. The failure of rescuers to reach these areas promptly has forced some residents to dig out corpses with their bare hands, while mechanical diggers plough through the rubble in Padang, a city of 900,000 people. Some villagers expressed anger at the delays.

Roads blocked, slowing aid

Aid workers say that the lack of road access has severely hampered relief efforts but that supplies are starting to flow. "Food is already scarce. What people need now is tents, food, and water," says Endang Trisna, an aid official for Mercy Corps, which is working in Pariaman, a stricken district north of Padang where around 30,000 houses were leveled by the quake.

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