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Police and volunteers continue the search for flood victims today.
Police and volunteers continue the search for flood victims today.
Image: Bullit Marquez/AP/Press Association Images

Philippines prepares for mass burial of storm victims

The tropical storm killed at least 650 people this weekend and left over 800 missing, according to the Red Cross.
Dec 19th 2011, 3:31 PM 1,174 2

PHILIPPINES AUTHORITIES are holding mass burials for the hundreds of victims of flooding during one of the worst storms to strike the southern Philippines in decades.

The death toll reached 650 yesterday and the Philippine Red Cross says that over 800 other people are still missing.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in its latest update today that 1,582 have been injured.

The head of the government’s Office of Civil Defence Benito Ramos told the AP that officials had lost count of the missing and added that some who were reported missing earlier could have turned up since in evacuation centres.

Ramos said yesterday that there was a severe shortage of coffins and body bags to cope with numbers killed in the storm.

As morgues are overwhelmed with the dead and fears grow about the decomposition of bodies, officials in the south of the country are organising mass burials of the victims. Mayor of the coastal city Iligan Lawrence Cruz said that mass burials are being undertaken “for public health purposes” because there is nowhere to take the decomposing remains.

Xinhua reports that officials have been photographing the bodies before burial to facilitate later identification by survivors.

Many of the storm’s victims were asleep when flash flooding struck the southern region on Friday night. Tropical Storm Washi blew away yesterday after damaging around 7,000 homes, uprooting trees and causing major power cuts.

Work is underway to restore power to some of the 13 provinces affected by the tropical storm. Around 45,000 people fled their homes to evacuation centres over the weekend.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Read: Death toll rises to 650 after Philippines storm >

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Susan Ryan

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