The stench of death in Tacloban

Voltaire Tupaz

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A survivor in Tacloban City begs the health department to collect and bury the dead and spare them from disease

ALIVE. Daisy Comendador of Barangay San Jose survives but is worried about an outbreak of disease. Photo by Voltaire Tupaz/Rappler

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – No sign of early recovery was in the air, only the stench of death.  

This was the situation in Tacloban City on Wednesday, 5 days after Typhoon Yolanda battered the central regions in Visayas. The government was still in the dark on the actual number of the dead, injured,  and missing across the province of Leyte. 

“Humihingi kami ng tulong sa DOH (Department of Health) na sana kunin na ang mga patay. Nakaligtas man kami sa baha, di kami makakaligtas doon sa sakit,” Daisy Comendador, a resident of Barangay San Jose in Tacloban City, told Rappler. (We’re seeking the help of the DOH to collect the dead. We were saved from the floods but we might not be saved from disease.)

Comendador said she saw a lifeless body of a man that still hangs on a branch of a tree.  Along the road from the coastal village of San Jose to downtown Tacloban, dead bodies wrapped in cloth, mats, and sacks rot. 

A few meters away from the damaged Bethany Hospital, a sign board read: “Pls kunin na patay. Magkakasakit na kami. 30 patay sa St Peter agnas.” (Please get the dead. We will get sick. 30 are dead at St Peter, decaying.)

In a busy street we passed by, men were slaughtering a pig. Women washed soiled clothes while  children played from a distance, unmindful of the stench of the cadavers.

THE DEAD. Covered with mats, they remain uncollected. Photo by Voltaire Tupaz/Rappler

Bury the dead

People rushed past the lifeless bodies covering their nose. They did not recognize most of the dead that were washed ashore by Friday’s storm surge, Comendador said.

On Tuesday, November 12, Comendador and her neighbors went to a DOH tent at the nearby airport, where hundreds of passengers scrambled for limited slots both in the commercial and the humanitarian flights. 

The Philippine Air Force is using its C-130 transport planes to ferry about a hundred people per trip. 

The sick and injured were prioritized but many were not accommodated. 

Comendador said she wished she could go and leave Leyte as well. 

“Sa dami-dami namin – at marami kaming patay na kasama, ‘di kami makaalis,” Comendador said, addressing her daughter who is based in Manila. (Given our number – and we have along with us a lot of dead, we couldn’t leave.)

She said, for now, what they need are doctors to attend to the sick people, particularly children, in her village.

If it is not possible, at least bury the dead, she begged. –

Daughter discovers mother alive through social media 

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