Mass burials for Philippine flood victims

Monday 19th Dec 2011 by theWeather Club

Image: Marconarajos

A mass burial has been organised in the Philippines for dozens of people killed by flash floods on the southern island of Mindanao. Coastal communities were devastated early on Saturday 17th December in flash floods triggered by a tropical storm. The floods struck in the early hours as a passing tropical storm coincided with high tides. As rivers burst their banks, many were trapped in their homes, and entire villages are reported to have been swept away.

The Philippine Red Cross said its staff had confirmed 652 people dead and that there are 808 so far listed as missing. The situation still remains unclear in many areas as damaged roads are hampering efforts to reach remote villages. Health officials in the city of Iligan say unclaimed bodies are now being buried after being marked for possible future identification.  City officials said that they were having to start burying people because of the advanced state of decomposition of the bodies. Health officer Liddy Villarin said the body bags would be marked for possible exhumation. "We will put markings on the cadaver bags which will give the physical features of each body before they put them in the mass grave," she said.

Benito Ramos, head of the government's Office of Civil Defence said funeral parlours had been overwhelmed by the catastrophe. Speaking from a boat off from the city of Cagayan de Oro, he told AFP news agency: "I'm out here retrieving bodies that are starting to rise to the surface." He admitted however that in reality they had no real idea of how many people are missing.

About 35,000 people are sheltering in evacuation centres, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. Officials in the city of Cagayan de Oro have said corpses were piling up unclaimed at mortuaries and overworked staff had run out of coffins.

In the aftermath if the tragedy authorities are facing criticism for not giving enough warning of the storm's severity. The Philippines is struck by several typhoons and tropical storms every year, but the south of the country usually escapes the worst damage. Many are saying that the storm was predicted to hit land near the high tides, so more should have been done to warn people of the possible consequences.