Philippine city officials under fire for dumping dead in landfillBy Edwin Espejo Dec 20, 2011 8:23AM UTC
“How could you, Mayor (Vicente) Emano (Cagayan de Oro City) and whoever decided on dumping the decomposing bodies in your landfill? They are not garbage!”
These were the angry words from Mindanao journalist Carolyn Arguillas of Mindanews who saw first hand how decomposing bodies of victims of tropical storm Sendong (international code name Washi) were piled in a heap at the city’s dumpsite as funeral parlors and morgues kept turning back rescuers and relatives who brought the dead for embalming and safekeeping.
This as casualties in the worst weather-related disaster to hit Mindanao in more than 20 years continue to rise with hundreds more still to be accounted for.
As of Monday morning, Philippine disaster officials said the death toll had already reached more than 684. By the evening, however, some news agencies said the tally had already breached the 700 mark and was still rising.
Tuesday morning, the number of death was announced at 954.
As the stench of death continues to fill the air, accounts of desperate relatives seeking to accord their dead decent burial being turned back keep growing.
Arquillas, who first reported of dumping of bodies in the city’s landfill early in the day thought her story would restore decency and compassion from city officials of the northern city of Cagayan de Oro, which along with nearby Iligan City were the worst hit by flashfloods.
She was wrong, as bodies continue to pile up late in the evening, ostensibly for city disaster members to collect tissue samples and identify the cadavers.
“We went back to the dumpsite around 11.30pm and learned that even the newly-retrieved bodies are being dumped there for the relatives to identify,” Arquillas narrated.
The city mayor said they are running out of morticians, formalin and coffins.
City social workers earlier said morticians and embalmers were attending bodies as many 10 each practically without rest, 24 hours after the first body arrived.
It takes four hours to completely embalm a cadaver but embalmers were forced to do it in two hours.
Emano however came under fire for reportedly playing mahjong during the height of the storm and was not seen by residents until after the real specter of the disaster became clear.
The mayor denied the report.
“It is a display of a fool and callous heart… lacking in discernment and wisdom from above!” exclaimed Tina Junsay-Spicer of dxAB in Davao City as news of the dumping of bodies at the dumpsite went viral.
Sun.Star Davao editor Stella Estremera said Cagayan de Oro officials failed to show even a little compassion for the dead after learning of the incident.
Jon Joaquin of Mindanao Daily Mirror described it in one word, “Shame!”
Heavy rains and gusty winds tore through most of northern Mindanao late Friday evening catching many victims in their sleep.
Low lying residences along river banks and creeks were the worst hit as entire villages were wiped out.
Many of the victims were children.
Emano said they were not informed that the eye of the storm would hit their city although the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) already predicted the storm would bring heavy rain.
Sendong was earlier predicted to hit land along the coast of Davao Oriental in the eastern side of Mindanao.
The storm however moved north and unleashed torrential rains across northern Mindanao before heading towards Palawan and exiting west of the country Monday evening.
Philippine weather officials said Sendong could land in the country’s top 10 storm killers in recent memory.
The Philippines lies in the typhoon path across the Pacific and is hit by an average of 21 typhoons every year.