Philippines begins mass burials of typhoon victims | News | DW | 14.11.2013
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Philippines begins mass burials of typhoon victims

Workers have begun mass burials of victims of Typhoon Haiyan which devastated the central Philippines last Friday. US ships have arrived to aid in rescue, recovery and relief efforts.

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Help Arrives in Typhoon-Hit Philippines

Officials hope that efforts to deliver large quantities of aid material will improve in the aftermath of the powerful Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 2,000 people dead when it hit last week. According to the United Nations, the storm displaced more than 600,000 people.

"I do feel that we have let people down," said UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos, who visited Tacloban, on Leyte island, on Wednesday.

"Those who have been able to leave have done so," she told reporters in Manila. "Many more are trying. People are extremely desperate for help."

Numerous countries and non-governmental agencies have dispatched personnel and equipment.

Officials said access routes for relief were slowly being established as naval ships converged on the Philippines.

Six days after Super Typhoon Haiyan unleashed its fury, US President Barack Obama urged Americans to dig deep for donations to the Philippines.

'So many cadavers'

By midmorning Thursday in Tacloban, local time, workers had begun to place some 200 corpses lined up at a local government building into a pit. They expect that the plot will end up several layers deep by the time they cover it over with earth.

"There are still so many cadavers in so many areas," said Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, who added that retrieval teams had struggled to cope. "It's scary."

The UN fears that 10,000 people may have died in Tacloban city alone, but President Benigno Aquino has described that figure as "too much." City officials estimate that they have collected 2,000 bodies, but they insist that many more remain.

"There would be a request from one community to collect five or 10 bodies, and when we get there there are 40," Romualdez told the news agency AFP, saying that official response has proved too slow.

"I cannot use a truck to collect cadavers in the morning and then use it to distribute relief goods in the afternoon," he added. "Let's get the bodies out of the streets. They are creating an atmosphere of fear and depression."

Escape efforts

Fears have grown as well for the health of those who survived. Officials cannot run enough flights from Tacloban airport to cope with the exodus from the stricken city.

Efren Nagrama, area manager of the civil aviation authority, said conditions had grown "very dire now" as he surveyed people at Tacloban's battered airport clamoring to get a flight out.

"You see hundreds coming to the compound every day. People who have walked for days without eating, only to arrive here and be made to wait for hours or days under the elements," Nagrama said.

"People are pushed to the tipping point: They see relief planes but cannot get to the food nor get a ride out. There is chaos."

Mayor Romualdez called for an "overwhelming response" from aid organizations and the government: "We need more manpower and more equipment."

The World Health Organization has reported significant injuries that require attention - open wounds that easily become infected in the sweltering tropical heat.

Experts also warn that survivors will need access to a reliable supply of clean drinking water to avoid illness.

mkg/ipj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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