By Rex Remitio
The death toll in Palo, Leyte due to Typhoon Yolanda has exceeded eight hundred.
The municipality of Palo is one of the severely devastated coastal towns in Leyte province.
At least 813 persons are now confirmed dead, and, yet, Mayor Remedios Petilla says that is still a conservative estimate.
In the coastal barangay of Santa Cruz, very few survived out of the population of more than 200 persons.
Many bodies have yet to be collected, some of them still scattered on the streets, while others remain under debris.
Most of the bodies recovered have already been buried in batches.
Unfortunately, around 500 of them did not have the benefit of undergoing forensic identification procedures.
Mayor Petilla says the local government hastened to bury the dead to prevent the spread of diseases from the decomposing remains.
She adds that local officials waited four days for disaster response personnel from the national government, whom they expected to help retrieve and identify the bodies, but nobody came.
Meanwhile, evacuation centers in Palo are more organized compared to other towns in the province.
Mayor Petilla says there is a sufficient supply of medicines for most illnesses except tetanus, diarrhea, and asthma.
Regarding the town's security situation, there are 293 policemen deployed but they are all from outside the province.
Only 10 out of 28 policemen in the town reported for duty the day Typhoon Yolanda hit, the rest were themselves directly affected by the monster storm.
There are also reported incidents of looting, but Petilla says these are only isolated cases.
The town's notable landmarks were heavily damaged, such as the MacArthur Landing Memorial.
Even the famous Metropolitan Palo Cathedral was not spared.
Only piles of broken pews, steel bars, wood carvings are left inside.
Mayor Petilla acknowledges there is no master plan as yet for rehabilitating the town.
She says the overwhelmed local officials still don't know where to start, but residents of Palo are still determined to stay put, and take things one day at a time on their road to recovery.
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Pia Hontiveros, Chief Correspondent and anchor of Solar Network News and News.Ph, presents the Solar News and Current Affairs year-ender special: On the Cusp of Change. A deafening silence, not out of a loss for words but a grief that cannot be spoken, for thousands lost to a super typhoon ... A muted pain from a powerful tremor that violently shook the heart of the nation ... An unspeakable anger over pork barrel that fueled a political maelstrom ... These and other stories from the extraordinary challenging year that was.