Most of the 71 bodies recovered in Iloilo buried in mass graves, say local execs
ESTANCIA, Iloilo, Philippines —“I just want to find my husband and bring him home,” said Margie Molina.
But she was also hoping that her search would not end at the morgue of Crisme Funeral Services where 20 unclaimed cadavers of victims of “supertyphoon Yolanda” (international name Haiyan) have been brought since Friday.
Margie failed to find her husband Eliseo Molina Jr. and was told to look for him at the municipal cemetery where mass graves were being dug for the decomposing bodies.
She rushed to the cemetery along with Edgie Francisco who was also looking for his father Eduardo Francisco. She feared the worst for her husband and worried how she would cope with such a loss, with three children aged 8, 7, and 4 years old to raise.
Eliseo Molina and Eduardo Francisco were crew members of the fishing boat “Segundo Wheeler,” which capsized near Apad Bay in Estancia at the height of the onslaught of the typhoon last Friday.
The crew had sought refuge at the bay but the strong winds threw the boat up three times before it was slammed upside down, according to Margie, quoting accounts of surviving colleagues of her husband.
Estancia, 153 kilometers northeast of Iloilo City, was among the worst hit towns in Iloilo.
Municipal officials have reported the recovery of 71 bodies as of Monday morning, more than half of the 133 fatalities reported for the entire Iloilo province.
The unclaimed bodies, including about 25 fishermen believed to be from Masbate, were buried in mass graves on Sunday. The fishermen died after their boats anchored at the port of Estancia were thrown up and slammed against the port by a storm surge.
“We are still picking dead bodies from the sea,” said Erol Acosta, municipal budget officer.
At the coastline, the smell of decomposing bodies mingled with diesel fuel odor. A hand stuck out from the debris.
The storm surge broke moorings of a power barge of the National Power Corp. (Napocor) and slammed the barge against the coastline, crushing several houses. Residents said bodies were still pinned under the barge.
The barge leaked diesel fuel, which coated the coastline and has been threatening the health of residents and marine life.
The barge has a maximum capacity of 1.2 million liters of diesel fuel, according to James Abayon, Napocor maintenance officer.
Coast Guard personnel were rushing the putting up of more oil spill booms to prevent the spread of the oil spill.
Estancia Mayor Cordero said they did not know where to evacuate the residents affected by the oil spill because even schools and other buildings, which were supposed to be evacuation centers were destroyed.
The town, known as the “Alaska of the Philippines” because of its seafood industry and popularity as a fish trading center, has been paralyzed after the typhoon cut off electricity and communications.
The first relief assistance started to arrive only late Sunday afternoon, two days after the supertyphoon, because roads were blocked by uprooted trees and electric posts.
Only a few roads have been cleared of debris, fallen trees and electric posts even in the town center as town officials grappled with the overwhelming destruction and the number of residents seeking assistance. Many villages were still inaccessible from the town center.
Residents were dependent on two water refilling stations for potable water and rice and food was running out.
“At least 99 percent of houses and other structures were destroyed or damaged,” Cordero said.
Several other northern towns of Iloilo have been devastated and are desperate for food, water and other relief assistance. Most of the province was still without electricity and access to communication.
The delivery of relief assistance has also been hampered by impassable roads, with many portions of the national highway from Iloilo City littered with fallen trees.
Many electric posts were toppled and thrown from one side of the highway to the other. Electric lines were being used to hang clothes by residents who lost their homes and were staying along the road.
Government agencies have sent initial food assistance to island-barangays by helicopter and by Navy boats because thousands of motorboats were destroyed, cutting off the island-barangays from the mainland.
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