1st mass burial in Tacloban

Patricia Evangelista

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(UPDATED) Tacloban finally buries its dead - even if only temporarily

TEMPORARY. Authorities start burying the dead in Tacloban City. Photo by Jake Verzosa

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines (UPDATED)- They buried the dead for the first time on Thursday, November 14, at the Basper Public Cemetery here.

The initial 82 bodies – all unidentified – were earlier retrieved by members of the Bureau of Fire Protection in Biliran who arrived to assist city officials. It’s a temporary burial, officials said, to allow relatives to exhume them later for identification.

The grave is a long trench dug by a backhoe. It will be covered completely tomorrow

By the end of the day, 110 corpses were interred in the mass grave before heavy digging machinery broke down, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said.

They were placed at the bottom of a huge pit that was expected to be several layers deep by the time it is covered over with earth.

“There are still so many cadavers in so many areas. It’s scary,” said Romualdez, adding that retrieval teams were struggling to cope.

“There would be a request from one community to collect five or 10 bodies and when we get there, there are 40,” Romualdez told AFP, saying that aid agencies’ response to the increasingly desperate crisis had been too slow.

The bodies that have been identified will be buried in another place in the city, according to officials.

Various estimates show that the world’s worst typhoon that battered Eastern Visayas killed more than 10,000, with Tacloban suffering the brunt in terms of casualties and damage to infrastructure. The government said it has only recorded more than 2,000 dead.

Survivors have been asking government authorities to bury the dead. (READ: The stench of death in Tacloban)  

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.)

Gunfire forced the cancellation of a mass burial that was originally scheduled on Wednesday, November 13. Gunshots halted a convoy travelling toward a communal grave. “We had finished digging the mass burial site. We had the truck loaded with bodies…but…there was some shooting,” Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday. “They could not proceed.”

As of Wednesday, at least 200 DOH personnel were deployed to Tacloban City.

TOUGH TASK. Members of the Bureau of Fire Protection carry body bags to a burial site in Tacloban City. Photo by Jake Verzosa

There is an urgency to collect and bury corpses lying around for 6 days now since Friday, November 8, and this is not because they pose a risk of communicable disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) clarified. (READ: How to handle corpses during disasters)

In its technical note “Disposal of dead bodies in emergency conditions,” the WHO said disposing dead bodies during disasters like Super Typhoon Yolanda is important mainly because of the pyschological trauma the bodies may cause to those “witnessing death on a large scale.” – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com






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