Rescuers end Sumatra quake search

Hunt for trapped survivors called off as focus shifts to relief and recovery work.

Aid workers say medical facilities are stretched to the limit trying to handle the many injured [AFP]
Aid workers say medical facilities are stretched to the limit trying to handle the many injured [AFP]

Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Padang, said the relief operation was picking up on Monday, with teams focusing on setting up tents for the tens of thousands of displaced and providing food and drinking water.

Rain hampers efforts

But while aid has been delivered to some areas, heavy rain and landslides have held up efforts to reach the more remote villages.

In depth

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 Responding to disaster
 Gallery: Sumatra rocked


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 Moment quake struck

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Ian Bray, from aid agency Oxfam, told Al Jazeera that water and shelter were the two critical things needed in the outlying areas yet to be reached with aid.

He said many villages’ water sources had been contaminated and there was a fear of water borne diseases spreading if supplies of clean drinking water were not delivered soon.

In Padang, rescuers gave up hope of finding any survivors in the rubble of the Ambacang hotel.

The 140-room hotel, a Dutch colonial-era landmark, had been the focus of a huge rescue operation involving international teams with sniffer dogs, but by Sunday no one had been found alive.

About 200 people were in the hotel when it collapsed but search teams have only found 29 bodies.

Sjaak Seen, the deputy leader of the UN Disaster Assessment Co-ordination team, said “normally, if you are under the rubble more than 72 hours you have only a minor chance of survival”.

According to the National Disaster Management Agency, 83,712 houses, 200 public buildings and 285 schools were destroyed in Wednesday’s 7.6 magnitude quake.

Another 100,000 buildings and 30km of road were badly damaged, and five bridges had collapsed.

The United Nations said 1,100 people had died in the quake while the government revised its figures on Sunday to 603 confirmed killed and 960 missing.

‘Stretched to limit’

Patrick Fuller, a spokesman for the Red Cross, told Al Jazeera from Padang that medical facilities were “stretched to the limit”.

Relief teams are battling to get the flood of aid out to remote villages [Reuters]

“They don’t have some of the specialist equipment that they need for these kind of crush injuries, particularly where people have broken backs, they need to be evacuated to specialist centres.

“We are hoping to get some more international teams in, possibly from Japan and Switzerland, who can support the government health services. But this is taking time and these people need treatment now.”

In outlying areas, the full extent of the devastation is still being uncovered as rescue teams reach rural communities.

Fuller said “thousands of people” had been affected and “a lot of the villages have been wiped out”.

Health officials said five villages had been buried in torrents of mud and rock triggered by the quake.

“In the villages in Pariaman, we estimate about 600 people died,” said Rustam Pakaya, head of the Indonesian health ministry’s crisis centre.

“In one of the villages, there’s a 20-metre-high minaret, it was completely buried, there’s nothing left, so I presume the whole village is buried by a 30-metre deep landslide.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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