Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Typhoon Haiyan: Mass burials begin

Mass burials are beginning Wednesday in the typhoon-stricken city of Tacloban, with the mayor saying he is crossing his fingers and hoping no more than 1,000 bodies will eventually fill the freshly dug pit.

Alfred Romualdez said dozens of trucks will roam the city to pick up bodies over the coming days. Many bodies have already been placed at the roadside for retrieval, he said.

Mr. Romualdez said it may take another week to assess the number of lives lost in the city. In the meantime, asked about President Benigno Aquino III‘s statement Tuesday that the death toll in the Philippines from the typhoon would likely mount to 2,000 to 2,500–compared with the 10,000 figure cited by other officials—Mr. Romualdez said it was premature to make any estimates.

“To be very realistic, whoever comes up with a number is not realistic,” he said. Many communities, he notes, haven’t yet been reached to assess their losses.

Meanwhile, the number of fatalities is becoming more evident over time, he said, as the smell from the deceased buried beneath the debris grows. “Some [neighborhood] officials say there’s no dead, it’s OK,” he said. “After three days, they smell something in the rubble, and they know there’s something here.”

Even next to his own house, he said, while he and his family originally believed there were no corpses, as time passed and a stench arose, they found six floating nearby in the water.

Part of the reason Tacloban’s fatality count is so high, the mayor said, is because many people came seeking refuge. “You have to understand Tacloban is the regional center. Every time there’s bad weather or severe storms, people come here for shelter. And the irony is they came here for shelter and we were one of the hardest hit,” he said.

About 10% of bodies in Tacloban so far, he estimates, have been retrieved and disposed of by family members. The number of the missing, meanwhile, he says is in the “high hundreds,” but adds that such a figure may be an understatement, as some families were completely wiped out with no one left to report them gone.

Yesterday, he noted, one barangay—or neighborhood—retrieved 60 dead. Another is reporting 30 lives lost. There are 130 barangays in Tacloban, he said.

According to Philippine law, he said, bodies shouldn’t be buried without being properly processed—namely, that the government will do everything they can to identify, photograph and document them before placing them into the ground.

Mr. Romualdez said that diggers finished the mass grave Tuesday, and that bodies will begin to be laid to rest there Wednesday.

Standing outside City Hall on a morning that dawned sunny and blue, Mr. Romualdez heard reports from staffer Gloria Enriquez-Fabrigas, who said that she needed tarpaulin to help bury corpses two levels deep. She also said families would have the chance to have a prayer be read at the grave. “Catholic, whatever prayer, there’s a Muslim prayer, a Christian prayer—the family can decide,” he said.

Meanwhile Wednesday, some signs of normalcy were returning to the city’s streets, the mayor said, with limited public transport beginning to resume.

Wednesday 13 November 2013


Post a Comment