November 26, 2020

Philippines sends coffins as toll nears 1,000 dead

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ILIGAN, Philippines (AP) — The government shipped more than 400 coffins to two flood-stricken cities in the southern Philippines on Tuesday as the death toll neared 1,000 and President Benigno Aquino III declared a state of national calamity.

The latest count listed 957 dead and 49 missing and is expected to climb further as additional bodies are recovered from the sea and mud in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities.

A handful of morgues are overwhelmed and running out of coffins and formaldehyde for embalming. Aid workers appealed for bottled water, blankets, tents and clothes for many of 45,000 in crowded evacuation centers.
Navy sailors in Manila loaded a ship with 437 white wooden coffins to help local authorities handle the staggering number of dead. Also on the way were containers with thousands of water bottles.

Most of the dead were women and children who drowned Friday night when flash floods triggered by a tropical storm gushed into homes while people were asleep.

Dozens of grieving relatives of at least 38 victims wept openly during funeral rites at the Iligan city cemetery. Many wore masks to try to block the stench of decomposing bodies.

“We have to give the dead a decent burial,” Mayor Lawrence Cruz said. He said authorities were using part of the cemetery’s passageway to build tombs.

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