Indonesia - Rescue teams pushed deeper into Indonesia's earthquake-hit Sumatra on Saturday, finding entire villages obliterated by landslides and survivors desperate for aid three days after the tremor.
In the city of Padang rescuers were still combing through collapsed buildings for thousands of people feared buried beneath the wreckage. The colossal damage that destroyed buildings and roads was hampering the aid effort.
In remoter areas outside Padang the full scale of the disaster was only starting to become clear, with villages wiped out and survivors drinking coconut water after their drinking sources were contaminated.
In my village, 75 people were buried. There are about 300 people missing from this whole area. We need tents and excavators to get the bodies but the roads are cut off, said Ogi Martapela, 28, who said his older brother died in the landslide.
Another resident said it was too late for aid.
Don't bother trying to bring aid up there, said Afiwardi, who pointed past a landslide that cut off a road. Everyone is dead.
Some villagers used simple wooden hoes in what appeared to be a fruitless attempt to reach bodies beneath the earth.
The aid effort appeared to be cranking up on Saturday, but it was yet to reach many areas.
We have not received a thing. We need food, clothes, blankets, milk. It seems like the government has forgotten about us, said Siti Armaini, sitting outside her collapsed home in Pariaman, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Padang and nearer to the quake's epicenter.
The mayor of the badly hit district of Padang Pariaman said by telephone that heavy digging machinery was starting to reach some areas hit by landslides, but that survivors desperately needed tents and blankets after losing their homes.
We are devastated. Eighty percent of houses have caved in, roads are split and cracked, said mayor Muslim Kasim.
Testos, an Indonesian Red Cross worker at an aid station in central Padang, said they now had around half what was needed.
We also need drinking water and clothes because many peoples clothes were burned in fires, he said. We also need medicines to stop infection.
In Padang, eight people were believed to be trapped in the ruins of the Dutch-colonial era Ambacang Hotel, once a prominent landmark in this university town of 900,000 famous across Indonesia for its spicy cuisine and buildings with dramatic curved roofs, influenced by the ethnic Minang group.
International rescue teams, including sniffer dogs from Japan and an orange-clad Swiss team, were helping in the effort.
We think there are eight people alive in there. One sent an SMS to a relative in a village, who got the text at 3 p.m. yesterday, said Arkamelvi Karmani, an Indonesian army officer involved in the rescue operation at the site of the hotel.
The message called for help and implored rescuers: Be careful that the excavator doesn't cause the building to collapse on us. A seminar organized by an insurance company was taking place there when the 7.6 magnitude quake hit on Wednesday.
The quake, from one of the world's most active seismic fault lines along the Pacific Ring of Fire, struck with a force that shook buildings hundreds of kms away in Singapore and Malaysia.
MASKS, SNIFFER DOGS
The United Nations estimated more than 1,000 had been killed in and around Padang. Indonesia's disaster management agency put the toll of confirmed dead and missing so far at 809.
Rescue teams, many wearing masks to cover the stench of bodies as they worked in the tropical heat, fanned out from Padang to some of the worst-hit surrounding areas.
On the route to Pariaman devastation became steadily worse.
Roofs of collapsed houses were flush to the ground, while families sheltered in makeshift tents made of blankets next to the road, which had giant cracks in places.
Asked about rescue efforts in Pariaman, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said bluntly it was now about retrieving bodies.
We can be sure that they are dead. So now we are waiting for burials, he said in footage shown on Metro TV.
But later he said that Indonesia most needed foreign help in the form of funds and reconstruction rather than rescuers now.
Kalla said that the disaster was nothing like the situation in 2004, when a 9.15 magnitude quake, with its epicenter roughly 600 km northwest of Padang, caused the Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 170,000 people in Aceh province alone, displacing hundreds of thousands.
Indonesia's health minister Siti Fadillah Supari predicted on Friday the number killed would be in the low thousands.
I predict the number will not reach 4,000, she was quoted as saying by news website detik.com.
The three provinces affected by Wednesday's disaster, and a second quake inland on Thursday, are major producers of rubber, palm oil, coal and other commodities, although together they accounted for less than 3 percent of Indonesia's overall GDP, according to a report by Bank Danamon in Jakarta.