Hundreds of thousands of survivors of a deadly Philippines typhoon crammed into overcrowded shelters on Friday, braving the stench of corpses as the government vowed action to prevent storm disasters.
Typhoon Bopha, which smashed into the nation's south on Tuesday leaving at least 484 people dead and 383 missing, was the deadliest natural disaster this year in a country that is regularly hit with quakes, floods and volcanic eruptions.
President Benigno Aquino flew into the southern island of Mindanao which bore the brunt of Tuesday's storm, to meet with bruised and grieving survivors who must now rebuild their lives.
"We want to find out why this tragedy happened and how to keep these tragedies from happening again," he told dazed crowds after arriving by helicopter in the town of New Bataan which was mostly obliterated by the storm.
As the president spoke, a yellow excavator tore into the rubble of a row of flattened houses a short distance away, allowing rescue workers to pull out the bodies of two more victims.
Among the 306,000 left homeless by the storm were 2,000 people huddled in a basketball gym in New Bataan, one of only a few buildings left standing in the town which is a centre for the nation's banana and gold mining industries.
With the overpowering stench of decomposing corpses from the parking lot outside, farmer's wife Violy Saging, 38, tried to focus on the needs of her surviving children. Her eldest son's body was found wrapped around a coconut tree that he had climbed in a vain effort to flee the deluge.
The concrete floor of the crowded gym was caked with mud, and part of its roof was blown away.
Families took turns to sleep on benches around the walls. The government has appealed for immediate international aid for food, tents, water purification systems and medicine, and warned the homeless face months in evacuation centres before safe places can be found for new homes.AFP