MANILA - The death toll in Super Typhoon Yolanda is increasing even if the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has ceased counting fatalities.
Local search teams in Tacloban City, the hardest hit by the monster storm last November, recover skeletal remains every day.
“At least three skeletal remains are being recovered daily under tons of debris along the coastal areas of Tacloban City,” a volunteer said.
Survivors have also been burying the recovered bodies without informing authorities.
While the government is already focusing on rehabilitation operations in the storm-devastated Visayas region, several coastal areas in Tacloban have yet to be cleared of debris.
Volunteers said that scores of bodies are still buried underneath the debris, especially in Barangay Anibong, a thickly populated coastal village leveled by Yolanda. Four cargo vessels are still sitting atop the flattened residential area.
Search and retrieval operations in Anibong are reportedly being hampered by legal issues because the owners and operators of the cargo vessels, supposedly upon instruction of insurers, are blocking the dismantling of the ships.
The NDRRMC, on the other hand, reported that the number of affected families is already 3.4 million or over 16 million individuals from 44 provinces, 592 towns and 57 cities in Southern Tagalog, the Bicol Region and central and eastern Visayas.
The estimate of damage to infrastructure and agriculture has reached P36.6 billion.
Envoys urged to help monitor donations
Meanwhile, a group of typhoon survivors and volunteers asked envoys of foreign governments in the country to help them monitor the use of funds donated to the Philippine government.
In a petition filed through Change.org, Kusog Tacloban asked the foreign ambassadors to help them monitor the funds by setting up dedicated pages in their websites.
They requested that the sites include aid amounts for Yolanda-stricken areas, project plans, agencies or organizations accountable for implementing these projects, and regular updates on progress and performance.
The group said they are afraid that corruption would lead to “substandard, unsafe, undignified and unsustainable solutions to very pressing problems.”
The petition has almost 6,000 supporters as of yesterday afternoon.
Vatican official to visit Tacloban
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) announced that the head of the Vatican’s charity arm is expected to arrive in the country tomorrow and part of his agenda is to visit Tacloban City.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, is scheduled to visit Tacloban on Jan. 28, the CBCP said.
The Cor Unum is an administrative body that serves in the name of Pope Francis for the Church’s worldwide charitable activities. It also distributes papal funds to disaster-torn areas in the world.
Former Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See Henrietta de Villa, a consultor of the Cor Unum, said that Sarah wants to get a first-hand look at the progress of the Church’s ongoing recovery efforts in Yolanda-hit areas. – With Janvic Mateo, Evelyn Macairan