Five days after a devastating earthquake hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the search for survivors has been called off. At least 1,000 people died in Wednesday’s 7.6 magnitude quake, but that figure could double with as many victims still missing.
No one has been pulled out alive since Friday. The focus for authorities and international rescue teams now is to get aid to those who need it and prevent disease. “After four or five days, it is impossible or very difficult to find survivors. Another phase will be to adapt the population to their new conditions of life in terms of access to water, healthcare, and, of course, shelter and decent roofing,” Olivier Brouant from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department said. Large swathes of Sumatra’s infrastructure have been wiped out. More than 180,000 homes and several hundred schools are estimated to have been levelled, with landslides also destroying many roads and bridges. The island’s rural areas have been particularly badly hit. In addition, emergency aid has taken several days to arrive. Many people are angry at the way the government has handled the disaster. ‘‘No aid from the government,’‘ one man said. ‘‘I just get whatever food and water from the distribution centre.” NGOs are also on site to try and help with relief efforts. Reverend Tim Costello from World Vision, Australia, said: “Over the next three months, we will be helping make sure that they have food, shelter, that they have sanitation, such as soap, and toilets and clean water. This is the only help they have. They have no insurance, no money to rebuild this house. This is the true, terrible nature of this tragedy.” Outside urban areas, bad weather continues to hamper aid efforts with heavy rain increasing the likelihood of further mud slides.