MANILA – Some 150 people killed in the 5-month terrorist siege in Marawi have been laid to rest at a mass grave as authorities continue to scour the city for bombs and corpses, a local official said Sunday.
A “Management of the Dead” team retrieves corpses from the ruins one area at a time after it is cleared of booby traps and unexploded bombs by police and soldiers, said Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur Crisis Management Committee.
The corpses, he said, are then brought to Marawi’s Barangay Papandayan, where they are crosschecked with dental records of the missing and DNA samples from relatives. Those with positive matches are turned over to their next of kin while the unidentified are buried at the Maqbara Mass Grave.
“We have already buried in Maqbara, iyung temporary burial site natin, ay mga nasa 150 plus,” Adiong told DZMM.
“If we base on the number of fighters, Maute terrorists who died in the MBA (main battle area) according to the military data, kulang-kulang pa po iyung nare-retrieve natin na human remains.”
(We have already buried 150 remains at our temporary burial site in Maqbara. If we base on military date on the number of slain fighters, we have yet to retrieve all human remains.)
Combat operations in the southern city ended last week, when the last Islamic State-linked fighters were killed in a fierce final stand.
The fighting has taken a heavy toll, reducing buildings to skeletons of mangled steel and rubble, and killing more than 1,100 people, mostly extremists.
Nearly 6,500 families will be headed back to the homes that were left intact, out of the 353,000 people displaced when hundreds of gunmen seized control of central Marawi in May, officials earlier said.
Basic facilities and services in Marawi, like water and power, are in the process of being restored, Office of Civil Defense Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima earlier said.
Authorities have also started to fumigate evacuation centers in Banloi and Saguiaran amid a spike of dengue cases, Adiong said.
Relief operations, he added, are also ongoing while the government identifies evacuees who are legible for livelihood projects.
"It would be much easier and cheaper kung bibigyan na lang sila ng (if they are given) livelihood assistance instead of providing them each week with relief goods," he said.
Some P3.4 billion has been allotted for health and social services during the initial recovery phase of Marawi this year. The government will disperse another P10 billion in 2018 and P5 billion in 2019, said Purisima.
Many foreign countries including Australia, Japan and the United States as well as international agencies like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank are extending help.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has acknowledged that his initial estimate of 50 billion pesos as the required amount to rebuild Marawi may not be enough, considering the extent of the destruction. - With Reuters