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Rescue workers in Sumatra find only bodies

Swiss rescue workers have been helping to dig in the rubble of the earthquake-hit town of Padang for more than 24 hours, but have failed to find any survivors.

"Our teams are working, or have worked, at seven or eight sites," the team's spokeswoman on the spot, Michèle Mercier, told the Swiss news agency. She said they had recovered six bodies.

Padang is the capital of the Indonesian province of West Sumatra which was hit by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday. The authorities say 777 people have been confirmed dead, while the United Nations puts the figure at 1,100. Up to 4,000 people are thought to be still buried beneath the rubble

The Swiss have sent a total of 115 rescue workers belonging to the Swiss Rescue unit of the foreign ministry. Swiss aid is being coordinated with United Nations organisations.

The Swiss rescue workers, using dogs and infra-red equipment, have worked in shifts almost round the clock, and a small group has joined an international team which is investigating the situation in the outlying villages.

An Indonesian official said on Saturday that 600 people were missing in villages to the north-west of Padang, buried under mud slides.

The Swiss have not set a time limit on their operation. "It's important to keep up hope and show the victims that they have not been forgotten," Mercier explained.

Meanwhile Swiss Solidarity, the fundraising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo's parent body, has launched an appeal for donations to help the victims of the Sumatra earthquake and of the typhoon which swept through the Philippines and other Asian countries.

The account number is CP 10-15 000-6, and gifts should be marked "Asia".

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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