Forensics team racing to finish identifying typhoon fatalitiesBy Dennis Jay Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley—A forensics team from the National Bureau of Investigation is working double time to process hundreds of dead bodies left in the wake of Typhoon “Pablo” so these could be identified and buried before the year ends.
Nearly three weeks since the killer typhoon devastated this landlocked town, over 300 bodies remained unburied, according to Marlon Esperanza, municipal information officer.
Of the 351 unidentified bodies, 111 were already in coffins and 240 others still in body bags. The bodies were laid out inside the town’s damaged public cemetery, where the forensic examination was being conducted.
Esperanza said some of the survivors of the typhoon want the bodies buried even if these had not yet been identified, but the task of digging a common grave for the dead was being punctuated by delays due to days of rain.
The rains were also hampering the search and retrieval operations for more than 500 still missing who, by now, might be dead, Esperanza said.
“People are still searching for family members and friends,” Esperanza said.
Bernardith Pebusot, municipal sanitary inspector, said they were not certain when a mass burial could actually take place as NBI forensic experts continue to do the gargantuan task of processing the bodies.
“Maybe by January 2 next year, the forensics will finish their work,” Pebusot said.
Pebusot admitted that with dead bodies scattered about–many still underneath layers of earth and debris– the whole town can now be considered “health hazard.”
She also pointed out that the foul odor that hovers in the air indicated decaying flesh, either of humans or animals.
Pebusot said that as much as officials want to prevent villagers from going back to their neighborhoods to rebuild their damaged homes, the officials could not do anything at the moment. “We cannot force them to move out as they want to rebuild their homes,” she said.