TAGUM CITY, Philippines—Authorities fear that the death toll due to typhoon Pablo (international codename: Bopha) could reach 1,000 as almost 600 bodies have been recovered in the two hardest-hit Mindanao provinces.
The stench of rotting bodies have become unbearable, prompting rescuers to immediately bury the bodies after they were found, said Capt. Raul Villegas, of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, based in Mawab town, in Compostela Valley.
“We are still hoping we can find survivors,” Villegas said on Sunday. “But the chance (of finding anyone alive) is getting thinner by the hour.”
Search operations on the fifth day after the disaster were concentrated in the devastated town of New Bataan, where sniffer dogs have been deployed to lead teams from police, Army and rescue groups to bodies buried under fallen trees or thick mud that enveloped a large swathe of the desolate town.
At least 316 bodies have been found in Compostela Valley, 165 of them in New Bataan alone. The death toll there included four soldiers belonging to the Charlie Company of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion, said Villegas.
At least 441 people are still missing in New Bataan, and 20 others in other areas of the 11-town Compostela Valley.
Villegas said Davao Oriental has recorded 276 dead, including 122 in Baganga and 103 in Cateel municipalities. About 61 persons are still missing in that province.