Mayor of Typhoon-Ravaged City Urges Residents to Flee

TACLOBAN, the Philippines — The mayor of this typhoon-ravaged city urged residents on Wednesday afternoon to flee to other cities and find shelter there with relatives if they could, saying that the local authorities were struggling to provide enough food and water and faced difficulties in maintaining law and order.

The appeal from Mayor Alfred S. Romualdez came as the first attempt in Tacloban to conduct a mass burial ended in failure. A police convoy of trucks carrying more than 200 rotting corpses turned back after the officers heard gunshots as they approached the city limits.

Covered with black plastic tarpaulin, the bodies were returned to a gathering place at the foot of the hill topped by City Hall, where they released a powerful odor.

Mr. Romualdez said the city desperately needed trucks and drivers to distribute relief shipments of food that are piling up at the airport, as well as more trucks, heavy equipment and personnel to pull decaying corpses out of the unending mounds of debris and collapsed houses that stretch across this city.

“I have to decide at every meeting which is more important, relief goods or picking up cadavers,” he said.

Mr. Romualdez denied persistent rumors of gunfights among the increasingly hungry and thirsty population, saying that business owners and others were firing only warning shots. “That’s why sometimes you hear gunshots, but it is to ward off looting,” he said.

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