herald

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Devastated city begins burying typhoon dead

Disaster: Soldiers carry an injured woman. Photo: Reuters
Disaster: Soldiers carry an injured woman. Photo: Reuters

A CITY devastated by last week's typhoon buried some of its dead in a mass grave this morning.

It was a sombre reminder of the tragedy that has left the Philippines with the monumental task of providing for 11.5m affected people.

Aid was beginning to reach some of the 545,000 people displaced by Typhoon Haiyan, which tore across several islands in the eastern Philippines six days ago, killing thousands.

Most of the casualties occurred in Leyte province, its capital Tacloban and Samar island. Many bodies are still lying along the roads in the city and others are buried under debris.

Outside Tacloban City Hall, dozens of bodies in bags were lined up, waiting to be trucked to a cemetery. The stench of death filled the air.

Prayers

In the first such operation, 30 bodies in leaking black bags were lowered into graves without any prayers being said.

"I hope this is the last time I see something like this," said Mayor Alfred Romualdez.

Officials said efforts had been made to identify the bodies so families have a chance of finding out what happened to their loved ones in the days and weeks to come.

Authorities say 2,357 people have been confirmed dead in the disaster, but that figure is expected to rise, perhaps significantly.

Valerie Amos, the UN humanitarian chief who toured Tacloban on Wednesday, said 11.5m people have been affected by the typhoon, which includes people who lost their loved ones, were injured, and suffered damage to their homes, business or livelihoods.

"The situation is dismal . . . tens of thousands of people are living in the open . . . exposed to rain and wind," she told reporters in Manila.

She said the priority for humanitarian agencies over the next few days is to transport and distribute high-energy biscuits and other food, tarpaulins, tents, clean drinking water and basic sanitation services.

"I think we are all distressed that this is day six and we have not managed to reach everyone," she said.

The first night-time flights – of C-130 transport planes – arrived since the typhoon struck, suggesting air control systems are now in place for a 24-7 operation – a prerequisite for the massive relief operation.

hnews@herald.ie

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