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Bodies still washing up in Leyte almost 6 months after Yolanda

Personnel of BFP-Region 8's Special Rescue Unit retrieve bodies in San Jose, Tacloban City. (photo courtesy of BFP-R8)
The online news portal of TV5

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines -- Close to six months since super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) smashed into Eastern Visayas last November 8, bodies continue to wash ashore and be retrieved in Leyte, both by authorities and civilians.

Even the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which had come under fire for keeping a tally that, to critics, seemed to dowplay the real toll, posted an update earlier this month.

The last NDRRMC update on Yolanda, posted April 17, said seven bodies had been added to the list of fatalities in Tacloban City, bringing the total of deaths from the storm to 6,300.

The agency said there had been no change in the number of missing persons -- 1,061.

However, the Bureau of Fire Protection’s Regional Office 8 said its Special Rescue Unit had retrieved 10 cadavers in Tacloban and nearby Palo town between April 1 and 24.

This brought the SRU’s tally of recovered bodies to 2,681, or more than a third of total deaths recorded by the NDRRMC.

There is practically no way the SRU or, for that matter, the NDRRMC can record the number of bodies recovered but not reported by storm survivors.

And no one will probably know how many more will never be found.

For example, in Tacloban’s Barangay 85 San Jose, resident Al Octaviano, 37, said he personally retrieved several corpses after Yolanda.

“Umabot sa 14  ang nakuha kong mga bangkay -- dalawang bata, apat na babae at mga lalake na ang iba. Itinali ko nga para hindi sila anurin ng dagat, pero alam mo naman pag nakababad sa dagat maghihiwa-hiwalay ‘yan. Marami pa ding mga buto ang nakahalo sa putik sa mga baybayin, pero hindi na nire-report ng mga tao ‘yan (I personally retrieved 14 bodies -- two children, four women, the rest were men. I tied them together so they would not be washed away by the sea, but you know when bodies are immersed in seawather, they fall apart. There are also many bones buried in the mud of the shallows, but people don’t report these anymore)” Octaviano told

Al Octaviano points to where he found dead bodies after super typhoon Yolanda in the waters off Barangay 85 San Jose, Tacloban City. (photo by Lottie Salarda,

Other residents confirmed they still see the traces of bodies along the shore.

The death toll from the super typhoon, the strongest storm to hit land last year, became controversial early on after then Eastern Visayas police director Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria was sacked after President Benigno Aquino III took exception to the officer's estimatem given immediately after Yolanda struck, of at least 10,000 deaths.

In an interview over international news channel CNN, Aquino dismissed Soria's estimate as the result of "emotional trauma" and gave his own estimate of no more than 2,000-2,500.

However, taken together, the NDRRMC's clearly incomplete tally of dead and missing, plus the fact that bodies continue to be found and many more may be lost forever indicate that Soria was right after all.    

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