Corpses of 1,400 Haiyan victims still lie unburied in Philippines village outside Tacloban

Villagers complain about stench as bodies are left in a field, seven weeks after deadly storm

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 December, 2013, 5:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 December, 2013, 7:39am


Seven weeks after the Philippines deadliest storm, about 1,400 corpses are still lying in a muddy field on the outskirts of destroyed central city of Tacloban.

Bodies in sealed black body bags, swarming with flies, are lying in an open field in San Isidro, a farming village on the outskirts of the devastated city.

"The stench has taken away our appetite. Even in our sleep, we have to wear face masks," said housewife Maritess Pedrosa, who lives in a house about 20 metres from the roadside city government property.

Haiyan killed 6,111 people and left 1,779 others missing on November 8, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

This made the storm one of the deadliest natural disasters in Philippine history.

Some of the survivors have received small amounts of cash from the UN, the Philippine government and other aid groups.

Other agencies are financing government schemes where people who lost their jobs are paid the minimum daily wage to clear debris from roads.

Tacloban and nearby towns were devastated by tsunami-like giant waves unleashed by Haiyan which accounted for a majority of the dead.

The council's spokesman, Reynaldo Balido, said he was unsure if the official death toll already included the bodies in San Isidro.

Eutiquio Balunan, the local village chief, said government workers assigned to collect the typhoon dead began trucking them to San Isidro on November 10, where they have been exposed to the tropical heat and heavy seasonal showers.

There, state forensics experts are attempting to identify the corpses, he said.

The processed corpses are then turned over to relatives, while those that are unclaimed are tagged and taken to a mass grave at the city cemetery about three kilometres away.

"Our tally comprises those already tagged and processed by the local governments," said Balido, the disaster council spokesman.

Balunan, the village chief, said the processing of the bodies had been suspended over the Christmas weekend as the forensics experts went on holiday.

"We are requesting the city government to please bury the cadavers because our children and elderly residents are getting sick," he said. "This place has become a fly factory."

The corpses are guarded by eight policemen.

One officer who asked not to be named said they were under orders to prevent the bodies being eaten by stray dogs.