Mass burial of unclaimed bodies suggested in CDO

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/18 December) –   Owners of parlors here have expressed concern over the lack of water and electricity as the bodies brought to them for embalming are now beginning to bloat and show signs of decomposition.

Dr.  Joselito Retuya, city epidemiologist and assistant city health officer, said the city government should start considering a “mass burial to avoid the risk of contamination.”

Councilor Dante Pajo, chair of the committee on health, supported the suggestion.

“We will shoulder the expenses of the burial of the unclaimed bodies. I’m advising the owners of the funeral parlors to coordinate with the City Health Office for the permit so these bodies could be buried and they can also go to our City Social Welfare and Development for financial needs,” said Pajo.

The Bollozos Funeral Homes in Barangay Bulua, where most of the bodies were brought, has run out of space to lay the dead. Even the hallways have not been spared. The putrid stench of the rotting corpses combined with the pungent smell of formaldehyde could be smelled 200 meters from the funeral parlor.

Dexter Lacson, manager of Bollozos Funeral Homes, said exacerbating the crisis they now face is that they are severely undermanned for the sheer number of cadavers delivered to them.

“We only have five embalmers and they have been working round-the-clock since the cadavers started arriving here on Saturday morning,” he said.

No water, no light

Lacson explained their work has been round-the-clock because the delivery of cadavers has not ended as well. He said they are receiving the most number because “kami ra man ang pinakabarato og rate” (we have the cheapest rate).

“Kun pwede lang unta ilubong na dayon diretso” (If only we could bury them immediately, he said, citing health considerations.

He said they can only process 10 corpses per day at the maximum or at least four hours per corpse.

“Even 20 bodies in one setting is already a disaster for us,” Lacson acknowledged.

The funeral parlor has attended to 73 cadavers. But they expect more bodies to arrive as the search and retrieval operations entered its second day Sunday.

Tropical storm Sendong raged across Northern Mindanao in the first minutes of December 17 , affecting residents in 23 out of  80 barangays.

“Until now, we still do not have running water to wash the dead because most are still covered in mud. We also do not have electricity until now, which means my embalmers are working dead tired with poor lighting,” he said.

Lacson said the Bureau of Fire Protection has delivered two firetrucks-full of water but maintains these are not sufficient.

He said the water district should restore the water supply because it is easier to use a hose on the bodies than to sprinkle water on them. “What we desperately need right now are running water, electricity and additional manpower,” he said.

At least 375 dead in CDo, Iligan

Another problem, Lacson said, is the shortage of coffins. “So far I have prepared 70 coffins but we lack coffins for children because most of our coffins are for adult corpses,” he said.

Ryan Somo of the family-owned Somo Funeral Homes on Sunday said they are experiencing the same predicament Bollozo Funeral Homes is facing.

A total of 179 bodies had been brought to the three funeral parlors here: 73 in Bollozos, 60 in Somo Funeral Homes, 19 in Divine Shepherd, 17 at the Cosmopolitan Funeral Parlor and 10 in St. Peter’s.

On Saturday night, Chona Soler, a utility worker in Bollozos who was tasked to do the counting of the bodies, said she stopped counting after 200. But Lacson said Soler may have been overwhelmed. He explained they  received only 73 cadavers.

In neighboring Iligan City, the death toll from the floods had reached at least 196 by Sunday morning, bringing the total number of dead from both cities at 375.

The number is still expected to rise because at least 200 persons have remained missing.

Somo said they did not accept the corpses of two children delivered to them on Sunday morning because they could not attend to them anymore.

“We only have four embalmers. We already requested additional embalmers from our branch in Alubijid (Misamis Oriental), but they said they could not spare any of their embalmers,” said Somo.

Both Lacson and Somo said they are concerned with the impending health hazard from decomposing corpses in their  funeral parlors.

Dr. Joselito Retuya, city epidemiologist and assistant city health officer, said the city government should start considering a “mass burial to avoid the risk of contamination.”

Councilor Dante Pajo, chair of the committee on health, said he supports the suggestion for a mass burial.

“I support the suggestion for a mass burial. We will shoulder the expenses of the burial of the unclaimed bodies. I’m advising the owners of the funeral parlors to coordinate with the City Health Office for the permit so these bodies could be buried and they can also go to our City Social Welfare and Development for financial needs,” said Pajo. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)

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