It’s been a month after super-typhoon “Yolanda” [Haiyan] hit central Philippines, yet Tacloban City and other affected areas continue to count the dead as more bodies are recovered underneath rubble or floating at sea.
In Tacloban City alone, the death toll has hit 2,321. This is still expected to rise after the floods have receded and more debris have been cleared.
Senior Supt. Pablito Cordeta, head of the government task force searching for bodies, expects the figure to rise sharply now that the task force has reached areas previously impenetrable because of the flood waters and huge piles of debris.
The official body count is still at 5,924 plus 1,779 missing, based on data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
But the actual estimate for missing is now at 8,000, with many of these feared to be among the dead who were unaccounted for.
In the days immediately following the typhoon, there was a scramble to bury the dead in mass graves to prevent the spread of disease.
Still, many of those buried in these mass graves were not identified or accounted for, especially because the NDRRMC only recognizes reports provided by official or designated agencies.
Also, with only around 10 forensic officers from the NBI tagging, identifying, and recording the dead, people have taken matters into their own hands, burying the still unidentified dead who were already in various states of decomposition.
The dead processed by the NBI can be identified by relatives using pictures and DNA samples, but the process takes time and forensic officials are also prohibited from publishing information, especially pictures gathered.
Cordeta said that his team continues to find as many as 20 and up to 40 bodies daily, most of them along the coast.
Survivors Living Amid Rubble
With too many survivors and too little places remaining intact, the survivors have to make do with living amid the rubble.
The evacuation centers, many of which also sustained damage, are overflowing with displaced families.
Little by little, the residents try to pick up what was left of their lives, but had to make do with shanty homes still surrounded by debris.
Some humanitarian agencies have provided tents in a number of typhoon-ravaged areas, but these were not enough to provide shelter for all.
People are sleeping, cooking, eating, and going about their daily lives in what could only be described as several hectares of wasteland. Large, uprooted trees could still be seen lying over vehicles and homes even a month after the typhoon struck the country.
The spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Matthew Cochrane, mentioned that providing homes for the displaced residents is among their top priorities. Still, he admitted that the process could cost billions of dollars and could take up to five years even for an estimated target of around 500,000 families.
With a pressing need to provide immediate shelter for their families, many chose to rebuild their homes from the debris instead of merely waiting for any housing project to come to fruition.
The resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations to the Philippines, Luiza Carvalho, said that the UN expects that the country has a long way to go for a full rehabilitation to take effect.
However, the agency feels glad that significant progress can already be seen even within just a month after the devastating typhoon.