Live

Watch CBSN Live

Officials: Quake Wiped Out Entire Villages

Last Updated 10:55 a.m. ET

At least four Indonesian villages were obliterated by earthquake-triggered landslides that buried as many as 644 people including a wedding party under mountains of mud and debris, officials said Saturday.

The full extent of Wednesday's 7.6-magnitude earthquake was becoming apparent three days later as aid workers and government officials reached remote villages in the hills along Sumatra island's western coast.

If all 644 are confirmed dead - as is likely - the death toll in the disaster would jump to more than 1,300. The government's death toll currently is 715, with most casualties reported from the region's biggest city, Padang, where aid efforts are currently focused.

CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton reports authorities are shifting their focus to delivering supplies to the needy.

International aid shipments are arriving, including a floating hospital sailing in from Australia.

The aid being loaded is from Indonesia, but donations have come from over a dozen countries, including the United States. Still, officials say what they need most is clean drinking water.

More than 3,000 people were listed as missing before the news about the obliterated villages emerged.

The United Nations said in a report that more than 1.1 million people live in the 10 quake-hit districts. It said 10,00 houses collapsed, 19 public facilities were badly damaged, 50 schools destroyed and more than 80 mosques severely damaged.

Rustam Pakaya, head of the Health Ministry's crisis center, told The Associated Press that the villages of Pulau Aiya, Lubuk Lawe and Jumena in Padang Pariaman district were completely wiped out by the landslides.

He said 400 people were attending a wedding in Pulau Aiya when the quake set off a landslide. In Indonesia's rural areas, weddings are often communal affairs open to the entire village.

"They were sucked [100 feet] deep into the earth," Pakaya said. "Even the mosque's minaret, taller than [65 feet], disappeared."

He said about 244 others were buried in Lubuk Lawe and Jumena villages. Only 26 bodies had been extricated, he said.

An AP photographer who flew over Padang Pariaman district in a helicopter saw several landslides in the area.

At a fourth village, Limo Koto Timur, a giant section of a hillside was swept away and the remains of destroyed houses protruded from the mud. The village's population was not immediately available.

The ruins of other tin-roofed homes hung precariously over the edge of a huge crevice torn through rice fields and forest. Roads were gone and palm trees had been uprooted and swept downhill, leaving patches of brown earth where villages once stood.

In Padang seven students are still buried in the rubble of a language school, but rescuers aren't having any luck. Heavy machinery is digging deeper into the wreckage, but some are not optimistic.

"I hope my daughter is alive," said one woman. "But if she's not, we'll have to accept it."

Disappointed rescue workers were unable to locate survivors buried under a collapsed hotel after one sent a cell-phone text message to a relative Friday saying he and some others were alive.

Frantic rescue efforts came to naught Saturday as sniffer dogs failed to detect life.

After several hours of digging through blocks of concrete, steel and bricks, rescue workers gave up. Padang police chief Col. Boy Rafli Amar told reporters, "So far rescuers have found nothing."

Hidehiro Murase, head of a Japanese search dog team, said its search had been fruitless.

"We did an extensive search this morning, but there were no signs of life. Our dogs are trained to smell for living people, not the dead, and they didn't sense anything," he told the AP.

A Village "Swallowed by Earth"

MetroTV showed aerial footage of the effects of a landslide - uprooted trees and a large empty area of brown earth where a village once stood. The houses had apparently been buried under tons of mud, rock and debris rolling down from a hillside. The broadcast did not identify the village.

The Detik.com news Web site quoted Rustam Pakaya, a Health Ministry official, as saying that in Pulau Aik village, "all the houses seem to have been swallowed by earth."

"Even the mosque minaret is not visible," Pakaya said.

El-Mostafa Benlamlih, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for Indonesia, told the AP that 200 houses were swept away in Pulau Aiya.

The immediate medical needs from the quake were being met, but aid efforts are "still concentrated in Padang area," with outlying areas still short of aid, Benlamlih said.

He said 3,000 people are missing just in Padang, the region's main city, and the total figure for Sumatra could be higher.

Immediate medical needs were being met, but aid efforts are "still concentrated in Padang area," with outlying areas still short of aid, Benlamlih said.

He said aid agencies would focus on restoring public utilities, sanitation and preventing disease. The search for the hotel survivor - staying in Room 338 - started after he sent a text message to relatives Friday saying he and some others were still alive.

But after more than six hours of searching, Padang police chief Col. Boy Rafli Amar told reporters, "So far rescuers have found nothing."

As he spoke, rescuers used backhoes and drills to try and break a passage through thick slabs of concrete in the six-story Ambacang Hotel.

Hidehiro Murase, the head of a Japanese search dog team, said its search had been fruitless.

"We did an extensive search this morning, but there were no signs of life. Our dogs are trained to smell for living people, not the dead, and they didn't sense anything," he told the AP.

Eric van Druten, a 31-year-old Australian surfer, said several of his friends were staying at the Ambacang and another hotel. He said he ran toward the swimming pool when the earthquake began to shake the building.

"But the wall collapsed, so we had to get out. There is still a heap of people in the pool," he said.

Fuel was being rationed amid a power outage, water and food were in short supply and villagers dug out the dead with their bare hands.

Vice-President Jusuf Kalla estimated that the quake had damaged about 17 per cent of buildings in the worst-hit areas.

He said recovery operation would cost at least $400 million.

Military and commercial planes shuttled in tons of emergency supplies.

Millions of dollars in aid and financial assistance came from Australia, Britain, China, Denmark, the European Union, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States, Indonesian officials said.

Wednesday's quake originated on the same fault line that spawned the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations.