Scores of people feared dead in Indonesia's tsunami disaster zone were found alive on Saturday as rescue workers spread out to remote island communities five days after the killer wave.

On the tsunami-hit Mentawai island chain off the coast of Sumatra, rescue workers battling rough seas and monsoon rain found 135 people hiding on high ground, too scared of another wave to return to their shattered villages.

Officials had held little hope of finding many of the missing after flights over the area earlier in the week revealed dozens of unclaimed bodies strewn across beaches and wedged in rubble.

The number of missing was almost halved from 298 to 163 following Saturday's discovery, while the death count remained at 413, according to an official tally.

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