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Mass graves planned for unclaimed bodies in ‘Pablo’ aftermath


05:45 AM December 8th, 2012

December 8th, 2012 05:45 AM

A rescuer covers bodies recovered from flashflood in New Bataan, Compostela Valley province, on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. AP PHOTO/KARLOS MANLUPIG

Provincial officials were considering mass graves for unclaimed bodies in the aftermath of Typhoon “Pablo.”

Pablo cut a wide swath of destruction in the valley, flooding farming and mining towns, and burying many people in mudslides.

“We are thinking of burying the unclaimed bodies because of health concerns,” Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, an Army division commander, said. “The foul smell is becoming strong,” he said.

Bernardo said rescue and retrieval work was hampered by lack of equipment.

“Some of the dead are buried in knee-deep mud and we only have our hands and shovels,” Bernardo said.

Gov. Arturo Uy of Compostela Valley said the province was considering digging mass graves if most of the dead are not claimed in two to three days.

He said more than 200 in the province died while more than 400 were missing.

“Probably half of the missing could be dead by now,” Uy said.

The Department of Health eased fears that the unburied bodies posed a threat to public health.

When people die, the microbes in their bodies also die, according to Dr. Eric Tayag, director of the department’s National Epidemiology Center.

Tayag said the department was discouraging mass burials, as the relatives must be given ample time to mourn their dead.

He said the department had distributed body bags in areas ravaged by the typhoon.

The department is also watching evacuation centers for outbreaks of disease, Tayag said.

The provincial government of Pampanga province and the Pampanga Mayors’ League have sent 350 coffins to help typhoon victims bury their dead relatives.

The Air Force flew in the coffins on Thursday and Friday. One hundred-fifty more coffins will be brought to Mindanao on Saturday. Reports from Tina G. Santos in Manila and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

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