Grisly race to identify the Philippines' typhoon dead

Grisly race to identify the Philippines' typhoon dead

TACLOBAN, Philippines - Clouds of flies rise as forensic pathologist Cecilia Lim opens body bags one-by-one, in a grim but crucial search for the identities of unknown typhoon victims in the Philippines.

"Some of these remains, their faces are gone. We're trying to do it as fast as we can before we lose everything," says Lim, as a truck unloads 80 more dead at her workspace - the edge of a mass grave outside the storm-shattered city of Tacloban.

A putrid stench rises from the giant pit where around 700 unevenly stacked bodies lie six deep, some of them having lain in the tropical heat for a week-and-a-half.

Scores more lie on the side of the road, lined up in bags and awaiting processing by small, overworked teams.

Lim says the aim is to record rudimentary details before they are buried in the hope that at some point, the bodies can be identified and placed in a proper grave.

"We are trying to do some initial victim identification and post mortem gathering of evidence before the bodies really decompose," she says.

Many were recovered after being submerged for days in pools of water left by the tsunami-like storm surge that crashed into Tacloban when Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall on November 8.

Logging the dead

As her assistant lifts the limp, wet clothes of each cadaver, Lim takes notes in neat cursive script in a reporter's notebook, recording the sex and describing distinguishing marks.

Each hand is lifted to check for rings and the pockets are emptied, their contents inspected, logged and photographed.

Long, matted hair is scraped from one woman's face, exposing her teeth so Lim can take a picture.

Crouching over the bloated body of one man, her knees just above the remains of his face, Lim unfolds a pair of spectacles taken from his shirt pocket, looking for a brand name on the arm before she refolds and photographs them.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.