Rescue workers called off the search on Monday for life under the rubble left by a massive earthquake, focusing instead on bringing aid to survivors in the towns and hills of western Indonesia, despite being hampered by torrential rains.
“After all this time I consider, from various experiences, it will be difficult to find more people alive,” Ignacio Leon, the head of the UN’s humanitarian agency in Indonesia, told The Associated Press.
“I don’t want to cut the hope of the people, but the focus will shift and we are supporting the government now more in the relief side,” he said.
The death toll from Wednesday’s temblor in Sumatra island is expected to be in the thousands once the missing people are declared dead. The UN has said 1,100 people died, while the government puts the toll at 603.
Mr. Leon did not categorically say the search and rescue operation was called off, but other teams confirmed that was the case.
Hiroaki Sano, head of the Japan Disaster Rescue Team, told t AP that officials of the UN and the Indonesian government discussed international assistance and “agreed no further assistance is needed for search and rescues.”
“We got here quickly but we haven’t found any survivors. The first 100 hours are crucial,” he said.