Image: Rescuers look for bodies of people buried in landslides caused by earthquake in a village in Pariaman
Erik De Castro  /  Reuters
Rescuers look for bodies of people buried in landslides caused by an earthquake in a village in Pariaman, Indonesia's West Sumatra province.
updated 10/4/2009 1:25:12 PM ET 2009-10-04T17:25:12

Search teams lost hope of finding any more survivors under the rubble left by a massive earthquake, as torrential rains on Sunday held up aid delivery in the remote hills of western Indonesia where several villages were wiped out.

Rescue teams instead focused on retrieving the rotting bodies from the rubble of the magnitude 7.6 earthquake in Sumatra island, setting up tents for the tens of thousands of homeless and providing them food and drinking water.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said there was little hope of finding anyone alive.

"We can be sure that they are dead. So now we are waiting for burials," he told reporters.

There is no clear word on the death toll. The United Nations put the figure at 1,100. The government earlier said 715 were dead and 3,000 were missing. But it revised the figure Sunday to 603 confirmed killed and 960 missing, presumably dead.

"With each passing day, the magnitude of the devastation grows," said Mark Fritzler, Save the Children aid group's Indonesia head.

"In addition to the threat of aftershocks, heavy rainfall has challenged our efforts, roads are cut off and we have no power in many areas, but relief workers are reaching families in the hardest hit areas," he said.

Landslide sweeps away wedding party
The missing include 644 people who were buried alive in four villages in the hills of Padang Pariaman district that were swept away by landslides caused by the quake. Among the victims were 200 to 300 guests at a wedding party in Jumanak village.

The restaurant where the party was being held was damaged but largely intact. A slice of the green wedding cake lay untouched on a plate, covered with flies. The guests were apparently killed when they ran outside as the ground began to tremble but were swept away by the landslide 40 yards (meters) away.

Iseh, a 15-year-old boy, said his sister, Ichi, was the bride. She, the groom and most of the guests were killed.

He said Ichi, 19, had come back to the village for her wedding.

"When the landslide came, the party had just finished. I heard a big boom of the avalanche. I ran outside and saw the trees fall down," Iseh, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, told The Associated Press.

"I tried to get in front of the house with my brothers. We were so afraid. Landslides started coming from all directions. I just ran and then I waited," he said.

Video: Heavy rains hamper Indonesian search

Fears of fresh landslides
On Sunday, hordes of aid workers, military personnel, police and volunteers finally reached the villages, bringing with them heavy earth moving equipment, relieving villagers who had been digging for the rotting corpses with bare hands while surrounded by the stench of death.

But by early afternoon a heavy downpour lashed the area, raising fears of fresh landslides. Police ordered all residents, aid workers, journalists and volunteers to leave. The exodus — on motorcycles, cars and trucks — caused a massive traffic jam on the two-lane road to Padang, the provincial capital that was also badly hit.

The quake had shaken loose entire hillsides, sending a cascade of mud, rocks and trees through Jumanak, Pulau Aiya, Lubuk Lawe and Limo Koto Timur.

Where the villages once stood, there was only mud and broken palm trees — the mountainsides appeared gouged bare as if by a gigantic backhoe. The stench of decomposing bodies was pervasive in the lush green surroundings.

"We are trying to assess the logistics of bringing in supplies especially food," said Gede Suweda, who came to Jumanak with a six-member Sai Rescue team from Bali.

"We have food in Medan and we are trying to work out how to bring it here as quickly as we can. We came to this village because we heard it was very badly hit. But we are not sure of the extent of the deaths or the needs of the people," he said.

In Padang, rescuers gave up hope of finding any survivors in the rubble of the 140-room, Dutch-colonial style Ambacang Hotel. Some 200 people were in the hotel when it collapsed. Search teams have found 29 bodies so far, and no one alive.

"After four days ... to find survivors is almost impossible," said Lt. Col. Harris, the chief of the 50-member rescue team, which comprises military, police and Red Cross personnel. "The smell of decomposing bodies is very strong," said Harris, who uses one name.

Half of thedisplaced are children
According to the National Disaster Management Agency, 83,712 houses, 200 public buildings and 285 schools were destroyed. Another 100,000 buildings and 20 miles (31 kilometers) of road were badly damaged, and five bridges had collapsed.

Save the Children said it has distributed more than 450 tarps and plastic sheets as well as 450 hygiene kits filled with toothpaste, shampoo and bandages to two villages, 30 miles (50 kilometers) outside Padang.

"We need to make sure hygiene is kept up because in situations like these children are a lot more prone to disease," said Jon Bugge, emergency communication director at the U.S.-based nonprofit.

The group estimates that children account for around 50 percent of those displaced by the earthquake. It said tens of thousands of children are at risk of hunger and diseases. Many children are believed to be separated from their parents.

British charity Oxfam said Sunday it had started delivering clean water to Padang and was flying in three water purification plants that could provide enough clean water for more than 40,000 people.

The local water supply was severely damaged by the earthquake, and the cost of water has doubled from 4,500 rupiahs ($0.45) per gallon before the earthquake, to 8,000 rupiahs ($0.82), Oxfam's Indonesia Emergency Response Manager David MacDonald said in a statement.

More on: Indonesia | Earthquakes

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Deadly earthquake hits Indonesia

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  1. An Indonesian young boy hunts for useable metal at a collapsed market in Padang, Indonesia, on Tuesday, Oct. 6. (Mast Irham / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A woman wipes away her tears as she tries to salvage her belongings in her damaged house at Koto Tinggi village in Padang. (Crack Palinggi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Locals from an Indonesian village unload humanitarian aid delivered by "Save The Children" six days after an 7.6-magnitude quake toppled thousands of buildings. (Wong Maye-E / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Homes are perched on the edge of a cliff created by a landslide triggered by the earthquake in West Sumatra province. (Enny Nuraheni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Survivors inside their damaged house near the Padang Alai village area in Pariama. (Nicky Loh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. U.S. soldiers erect a makeshift tent for their medical support base to give assistance to quake victims near the M. Jamil hospital in Padang. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A survivor walks with a tub of water in a village hit by a landslide which occured when an earthquake hit the area of Kapalo Koto in Pariaman, West Sumatra province Monday, Oct. 5. Rescuers and aid workers fanned out into the hills of Sumatra island, where hundreds of people were buried in landslides triggered by a devastating earthquake. (Nicky Loh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Earthquake survivors search for their belongings in an landslide area at Cumanak Village in Pariaman, West Sumatera, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 5. (Bagus Indahono / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aid workers carry relief goods to be distributed to landslide victims in a village in Pariaman, Indonesia's West Sumatra province, on Monday, Oct. 5. (Erik De Castro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A woman injured in the earthquake lies in a bed at a hospital in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia. The U.N. estimates that 1,100 people died in the earthquake. (Binsar Bakkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Japanese rescue team members search for victims buried by a quake-triggered landslide in Jumanak in Padang Pariaman district, Indonesia. (Achmad Ibrahim / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Visitors take a look at a list of quake victims at Lubuk Laweh village in Pariaman, West Sumatra. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Students attend a class in a makeshift classroom set up by UNICEF in Padang, Indonesia. (Wong Maye-e / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A man prays in front of a statue of Mary and Baby Jesus in a Catholic church which was affected by the earthquake on Sunday, Oct. 4, in Padang, Indonesia. With no outside help in sight, villagers used their bare hands Sunday to dig out corpses, four days after landslides triggered by a huge earthquake obliterated four hamlets in western Indonesia. (Binsar Bakkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. This aerial picture shows damaged houses in Pariaman on Sunday after the September 30 7.6-magnitude quake hit West Sumatra near the city of Padang. Rescuers held out scant hope for quake survivors, handing recovery teams the grim task of retrieving the decaying bodies of some 4,000 victims believed buried in rubble. (Adek Berry / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Relief workers and Indonesian earthquake survivor seek shelter from heavy rain at a major landslide area in Pariaman, West Sumatra, Indonesia, on Sunday. (How Hwee Young / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A boy crawls under overhanging rocks from what used to be a market on Sunday in Padang, Indonesia. (Binsar Bakkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A woman washes her clothes in a stream as running water is still not available to many, on Sunday in Padang. (Wong Maye-e / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. An aerial picture shows an area after landslides hit three villages following recent earthquakes in Pariaman on Sunday. (Adek Berry / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Indonesian rescue workers carry the body of an earthquake victim at a village in the Sumatran town of Tandikat on Satruday, October 3. (Manan Vatsyayana / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Indonesian army and rescue workers remove debris as they attempt to free dead bodies from rubble at the Ambacang Hotel on Saturday in Padang. (Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

    Hands protrude from rubble as rescue efforts continue on Saturday in Padang, Indonesia. (Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A tear rolls down the face of a weeping boy as he lies inside a makeshift tent erected outside the partially earthquake-destroyed M Djamil hospital in Padang. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. An Indonesian woman shows a photograph of her missing family member in the Sumatran city of Padang on Saturday. (Roslan Rahman / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Nine-year-old Indah, who has two broken legs, screams in agony as she is consoled by her grandmother inside a makeshift tent erected outside the partially destroyed M Djamil hospital in Padang. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. People gather at a river as their main source of water as running water is not available in most parts of the island on Saturday in Padang. (Binsar Bakkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. An elderly Indonesian woman sits outside her damged house in the Sumatran town of Sicincin on Saturday. (Manan Vatsyayana / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A damaged mosque in Padang, Indonesia's West Sumatra province Friday, Oct. 2. Rescuers dug feverishly on Friday through the rubble of a school and other buildings toppled by an earthquake in the Indonesian port of Padang, but few victims were being found alive two days after the tremor. (Erik De Castro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Family members break into tears as they recognize their dead relatives at the M. Djamil general hospital in the Sumatran city of Padang after a 7.6-magnitude quake toppled buildings in the area. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Villagers move their belongings from the ruins of their house in Pariaman, a coastal town in the West Sumatra province of Indonesia. (Crack Palinggi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. An Indonesian policeman stands in front of the ruins of the Ambacang hotel as the rubble is searched for victims in the Sumatran city of Padang. (Adek Berry / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Ratna Kurnia Sari, an Indonesian woman, is rescued out from the rubble of a collapsed building in the Sumatran city of Padang. (Roslan Rahman / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A view of houses in a village destroyed by an earthquake in Lima Koto in the outskirts of Padang, Indonesia's West Sumatra province. (Erik De Castro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. A survivor sits up in bed as he is treated in the M. Djamil General Hospital. (Getty Images / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. The ruins of Ambacang Hotel is lit against the dask sky as rescue workers search for survivors. (Binsar Bakkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. A second powerful earthquake rocked western Indonesia on Oct. 1 as rescuers struggled to reach survivors of the previous day's quake, which killed hundreds of people and left thousands trapped under collapsed buildings. A boy stands near one of flattened buildings in Padang, West Sumatra. (Dita Alangkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Indonesian soldiers excavate into the wreckage of a building to search for victims and survivors in Padang. (Adek Berry / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Long lines form at gas stations in Padang. (Roslan Rahman / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Indonesian rescuers struggle to reach survivors in Padang. A second earthquake with a 6.8 magnitude rocked western Indonesia on Oct. 1, a day after the region was devastated by an undersea quake of 7.6 magnitude. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Earthquake victim lays down at Siti Rahma Hospital. (Bagus Indahono / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Residents stands near the bodies of earthquake victims at a hospital in Padang on Indonesia's Sumatra island. (Stringer/indonesia / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Residents walk through an area damaged earthquake. (Dita Alangkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. A man comforts a relative after the Indonesian earthquake, which came a day after a powerful quake in the South Pacific hurled a massive tsunami at the shores of Samoa and American Samoa. (Muhammad Fitrah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. People stand near a collapsed shopping mall in Padang. Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told local television that a mall and two hospitals had collapsed. (Muhammad Fitrah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. A man carries an injured person in front of a collapsed university building. (Muhammad Fitrah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. An injured girl cries during an evacuation after the quake. (Muhammed Fitrah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. A woman walks in front of a collapsed shopping mall. The magnitude 7.6 quake occurred along the same fault line that spawned the massive 2004 Asian tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries. (Muhammad Fitrah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. An Indonesian woman is carried as she cries in mourning after identifying a dead relative at a hospital in Padang. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Residents flee after the quake hits in Padang, west Sumatra. The temblor started fires, severed roads and cut off power and communications to Padang, a coastal city of 900,000. (Fitra Yogi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. In footage braodcast by a local TV station, frightened residents run down a street in Padang, Indonesia, after a powerful earthquake struck off Sumatra island on Wednesday, Sept. 30. The ground shook so hard that people sat down on the streets to avoid falling over.

    The temblor triggered landslides and trapped thousands under collapsed buildings. Dozens of bodies have been recovered. (TV One via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Indonesian soldiers look on as an earthmover removes the rubble of a destroyed building in Padang. (Achmad Ibrahim / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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