Relief Officials Fear Diseases From Rotting Corpses Along Asias Shoreline

SEATTLE -- As the known death toll from Sunday's tsunamis rises by the hour, health officials face one of their most urgent and emotional tasks:  disposing of human and animal remains before deadly diseases such as cholera threaten the living.

   

"Bodies of small children and adults litter the shoreline," said Jayanth

Vincent, World Vision relief worker based in Chennai (formerly Madras), India.

"They're being buried in mass graves -- often before they have been identified

by loved ones."

   

More than 22,000 people are known dead, but that figure is expected to

rise significantly as more bodies are discovered in ditches, trees and flood

debris.  Meanwhile, people search hospitals and makeshift morgues in search of

missing relatives.

   

"Survivors face trauma upon trauma," said Vincent.  "They've lost sons,

daughters, mothers and fathers -- and often they're robbed of the chance to

even pay respects at their graves."  Burial itself is an anomaly in Hindu

tradition, which calls for cremation within two days of death.  However,

Vincent said wood is in too short supply to build funeral pyres for all the

victims.

   

Of lesser concern are the carcasses of animals drowned by the tsunami.

Vincent said if the waves had reached further inland to agricultural areas,

many more livestock would have been lost.

   

In the early hours of the disaster, World Vision staff worked alongside

community members in rescue and recovery efforts.  As government officials

take the lead in this grim task, World Vision staff are providing food,

shelter and care to the survivors.

 

Source: World Vision

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