TACLOBAN, Philippines - A week after one of the strongest typhoons ever tore through the Philippines, bodies still lie where they fell or were washed up, the defining motif of a tragedy that has killed thousands.
The stench of bloated and discoloured human flesh decomposing under the tropical sun hangs everywhere in the central city of Tacloban, where wretched survivors and rescue workers cover their mouths to keep the cloying smell from their throats.
Hundreds have been collected, put into body bags and trucked off to wrecked municipal buildings to await burial in mass graves, a process that city authorities began on Thursday.
Officials and aid volunteers say those bodies that have been recovered are just the beginning, a small fraction of those that could be seen when the storm surge subsided. Many more, they say, lie under the mountains of debris.
"Leaving them (the bodies) just decaying on the roadside, uncollected, is next to unforgivable," local Catholic priest Amadeo Alvero said.
Officials initially said picking up the bodies had to take second place to the effort to help those still living, many in utter destitution, their homes swept away and with precious little food or clean drinking water.
But they also conceded they had simply been overwhelmed by the number of dead, and had temporarily run out of body bags.
Echoing a fear expressed by many, Alvero said the dead could be the source of contagious disease.