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Rains delay delivery of aid to Indonesians

JUMANAK, Indonesia — 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.

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 away.

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.

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 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.

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