Philippines buries its dead as flood toll tops 1,000
AFP | Dec 21,2011 | 23:10
Philippine navy personnel arrange coffins that will be shipped with drinking water, clothes and other relief goods to flood-stricken Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities on board a Philippine navy ship in Manila, Philippines, on Tuesday (AP photo)
CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines — Philippine authorities on Tuesday began burying the dead from flash floods that have left more than 1,000 dead or missing, as President Benigno Aquino declared a national disaster.
Aquino flew to Mindanao Island to inspect the ports of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan — choked with drying mud, crumpled homes, and hundreds of decomposing corpses after being struck by tropical storm Washi on the weekend.
Two dump trucks arrived at the public cemetery in Iligan at dusk, with soldiers unloading 38 coffins of victims who have been identified and claimed by relatives, who cried and lit candles as they witnessed the burial.
On Monday as the stench of rotting bodies grew unbearable and health fears rose, local authorities had announced plans for burials in mass graves but after intense criticism they hastily arranged individual tombs.
"It is not like digging a hole and sticking them in there. They are being given apartment-style compartments, and I think it's pretty decent," Iligan city Mayor Lawrence Cruz told AFP as he led the first of the burials.
Cruz said that forensics experts were taking fingerprints and DNA samples of the many other unidentified bodies at overflowing local mortuaries and that dozens more cadavers would be ready for burial on Wednesday.
Aquino pledged aid to the slum communities hit by the disaster, which the government has said left 957 people dead and 49 others missing — a toll they fear could rise as bodies swept out to sea begin to surface.
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