Residents in the southern Philippines began to bury their dead on Friday even as rescue workers continued scouring remote areas for possible survivors of Typhoon Bopha, the country's strongest storm this year, which killed 418 people and left nearly as many missing.
Officials in Compostela Valley, one of the worst hit provinces on the resource-rich island of Mindanao, were considering mass graves for unclaimed bodies killed by the typhoon which hit two days ago.
Bopha cut a swath of destruction in the valley, flooding farming and mining towns and burying many people in mudslides.
"We are thinking of burying the unclaimed bodies on health concerns," Major General Ariel Bernardo, an army division commander in the southern Philippines, told Reuters. "The foul smell is becoming strong."
Bernardo said rescue and retrieval work was hampered by lack of equipment. "Some of the dead are buried in knee deep mud and we only have our hands and shovels," he said.
Arturo Uy, governor of Compostela Valley, said the province was considering digging mass graves if most of the dead are not claimed in two to three days. He estimates 212 died in his province while nearly 400 were missing.
"Probably half of the missing could be dead by now," he told Reuters.
The official death toll stands at 418, with 383 missing and hundreds injured, the national disaster agency said in its latest tally. But the toll is expected to rise, with local government officials quoting higher numbers of missing.