Philippines buries dead, typhoon toll hits 418

Fri Dec 7, 2012 1:53am EST
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By Erik de Castro

NEW BATAAN, Philippines (Reuters) - Residents in the southern Philippines buried their dead on Friday even as rescue workers continued scouring remote areas for survivors of Typhoon Bopha, the nation's strongest storm this year, which killed 418 people and left nearly as many missing.

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 swath of destruction in the valley, flooding farming and mining towns and burying many people in mudslides.

"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 of equipment. "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 Reuters.   Continued...

An aerial view of damaged houses caused by flash floods in Compostela Valley province, southern Philippines is seen in this handout photograph provided by the Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division December 6, 2012. Rescue workers searched on Thursday through thick mud, broken homes and fallen trees for survivors, two days after Typhoon Bopha swept the southern Philippines killing nearly 400 people and leaving at least as many missing. REUTERS/Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division