GUNUNG SITOLI, Indonesia — International rescuers on Friday abandoned their search for survivors in the main city of the Indonesian island that bore the brunt of a powerful earthquake four days ago.
A U.N. official said teams would move to other Nias island towns that suffered damage in Monday night’s magnitude-8.7 quake.
“There are no (more) survivors here,” said Olaf Lingjerde, a U.N. search and rescue official. “We found one person alive yesterday morning, that was the last person. It’s been 24 hours since then and there’s been nothing.”
In the early hours of Thursday, a 13-year-old girl was pulled out alive from a collapsed five-story building 52 hours after the quake.
Four international teams have spent the days since the quake combing the wreckage of about 200 collapsed houses in the city of Gunung Sitoli but have only managed to pull a few people alive from the rubble.
“After three days the survivor rate goes down, especially when you have this weather,” Lingjerde said, referring to heavy rain that has fallen in recent days. “There are no reports from locals of any more sounds” from under the rubble.
Some of the rescuers were taking helicopters to remote parts of the island to resume searching there and the Antara news agency reported that Hungary was sending a team of searchers with special sniffer dogs to help.
U.N. relief coordinator Francois Desruisseauz said that a ship carrying 350 tons of rice, water, tinned fish and other supplies arrived at Nias late Thursday and the food was being distributed to hungry survivors Friday.
The rice was shipped from warehouses in Aceh province, where it was being stored to give to victims of the Dec. 26 quake and tsunami catastrophe that killed more than 126,000 in Indonesia and left about half a million homeless.
The government said that so far 279 bodies had been recovered and the final toll would likely be between 400-500 across the disaster zone. Earlier in the week, gave death toll estimates ranging from 1,000 to 2,000.
Angry and hungry survivors have been demanding help from Indonesia’s government to speed up delivery of aid.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono toured the island Thursday and at one point officials were confronted by a group of hungry and angry survivors.
“Bad damage to roads and bridges and bad weather are disturbing distribution of aid and the relief effort,” Yudhoyono admitted.
Across the island, a search helicopter discovered a group of 11 Western surfers who had been missing since the quake, the Swedish Foreign Ministry said.
“They’re feeling well, considering the circumstances,” Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Christian Karlsson said. He said the surfers had slept outside since the quake.
Stockpiles of emergency supplies are already in Aceh, taken there to help feed and care for survivors of the Dec. 26 quake and tsunami disaster that killed more than 126,000 Indonesians.
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