Medical teams, search dogs, backhoes and emergency supplies were flown into the devastated western coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island on Friday to bolster frantic rescue attempts for thousands buried by a powerful earthquake.
The official death toll from Wednesday's 7.6-magnitude quake stood at 715, the Health Ministry's crisis center chief Rustam Pakaya told The Associated Press. He said more than 2,000 people were injured and ``thousands'' missing based on reports from relatives, though he could not put a firm number yet on the missing.
One U.N. estimate said as many as 1,100 may have died.
A lack of heavy digging equipment made it nearly impossible to pry apart giant slabs of concrete from toppled buildings, officials said.
The crushed remains of the dead were beginning to decompose in the tropical heat and mass funeral arrangements were being made by families at local mosques.
With communications and power supplies still down in many areas, fuel was being rationed to focus on locating thousands still missing.
``Heavy equipment and rescuers are our priority,'' said spokesman Priyadi Kardono of the national disaster management agency. ``We have to give them complete access to enable them to rush to the victims.''
Twenty-eight tons of supplies, including water, medicine and basic food provisions, were flown into regional airports to be distributed to the needy. Tents were handed out to some of the tens of thousands of people made homeless, Kardono said.
Russia sent two planeloads of supplies, along with doctors and nurses to treat the seriously injured, and search dogs joined the hunt for anyone who may be buried alive.
Also donating millions of dollars in aid and financial assistance were governments and charities of Australia, China, Germany, Japan, the European Union, Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States, Indonesian officials said.
The worst hit area appeared to be the provincial capital of West Sumatra, Padang, a sprawling city of 900,000 where at least 376 bodies were recovered. Most of them were killed when scores of buildings, including hotels, hospitals, schools and public office were flattened.
Wednesday's earthquake started at sea and quickly rippled through Sumatra, the westernmost island in the Indonesian archipelago.
President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, pledged to support earthquake recovery efforts there, as well as provide assistance to the South Pacific countries of Samoa and American Samoa, which were hit by a deadly tsunami Tuesday. The United States pledged $3 million in immediate assistance to Indonesia.
In Padang, relatives of the missing gathered outside ruined buildings, hoping to hear good news. But mostly, the rescuers found bodies.