Residents carry the coffin of a typhoon victim past a destroyed house in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley in southern Philippines. Photo by Reuters
People in the southern Philippines are burying their dead as
rescue workers continued scouring remote areas for possible
survivors of Typhoon Bopha, the country's strongest storm
this year, which killed 418 people and left nearly as many
Officials in Compostela Valley, one of the worst hit
provinces on the resource-rich island of Mindanao, were
considering mass graves for unclaimed bodies killed by the
typhoon which hit two days ago.
Bopha cut a swathe of destruction in the valley, flooding
farming and mining towns and burying many people in
"We are thinking of burying the unclaimed bodies on health
concerns," Major General Ariel Bernardo, an army division
commander in the southern Philippines, told Reuters. "The
foul smell is becoming strong."
Bernardo said rescue and retrieval work was hampered by lack
"Some of the dead are buried in knee deep mud and we only
have our hands and shovels," he said.
Arturo Uy, governor 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 estimates 212 died in
his province while nearly 400 were missing.
"Probably half of the missing could be dead by now," he told
The official death toll stands at 418, with 383 missing and
hundreds injured, the national disaster agency said in its
latest tally. But the toll is expected to rise, with local
government officials quoting higher numbers of missing.
A Reuters photographer saw at least 10 bodies under mud and
piles of logs and debris and only a few hundreds of metres
from a crowded makeshift grandstand in New Bataan town in
Compostela Valley, where President Benigno Aquino was due to
give out relief goods later on Friday.
"Up to now, we are not discussing stopping (the search)," Uy
told reporters. "There are still survivors in barangays
(villages) which we couldn't reach immediately."
Stephen Antig, executive director of Pilipino Banana Growers
and Exporters Association, estimates about 7 billion pesos
($NZ205 million) worth of bananas mostly for export in
Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte were destroyed by the
The area, where plantations owned by Dole Food Company Inc
and Del Monte Pacific Ltd are located, accounts for almost a
fifth of the country's total banana production.
Bopha has now weakened and is slowly moving north-northwest
towards the South China Sea, with central winds of up to
110kmh and gusts of up to 140kmh.
About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, often
causing death and destruction. Almost exactly a year ago,
Typhoon Washi killed 1500 people in Mindanao, but most storms
make landfall further north.