ILIGAN, Philippines - With funeral parlors overwhelmed, authorities in a flood-stricken southern Philippine city organized the first mass burial Monday of people who were swept to their deaths in one of the region's worst calamities in decades.
The official death toll from Friday night's disaster, which was spawned by a tropical storm, rose to 927. Benito Ramos, head of the Office of Civil Defense, said additional bodies were retrieved from the ocean.
The number of missing varied widely. Official figures put the number at 82, while the Philippine Red Cross estimated 800.
The disparity underscores the difficulty in accounting for people who could be buried in the mud and debris littering much of the area, or could be alive but lost in crowded evacuation centers or elsewhere.
In Iligan, a coastal industrial hub of 330,000 people, Mayor Lawrence Cruz said the city's half-dozen funeral parlors were full and no longer accepting bodies. The first 50 or so unclaimed bodies were buried in individual tombs at the city cemetery, he said.
"For public health purposes, we're doing this. The bodies are decomposing, and there is no place where we can place them," Cruz said.
He said many of the Iligan dead - 279 by official count - "are just piled and laid outside the morgues," which ran out of coffins and formaldehyde for embalming.
In nearby Cagayan de Oro city, the situation was more chaotic, and people were resisting mass burials, instead demanding that bodies be interred until relatives could claim them.
About 580 died in Cagayan de Oro, mostly women and children, many of whom lived along riverbanks. Floodwaters came gushing after 12 hours of pounding rain, catching most victims in their sleep.
In a grim sign of desperation, a funeral parlor dumped about 30 badly decomposed bodies in a city garbage dump over the weekend, sparking protests from distraught villagers who were looking for missing loved ones.
About 143,000 people were affected in 13 southern and central provinces, including 45,000 who fled to evacuation centers. About 7,000 houses were swept away, destroyed or damaged, the Office of Civil Defense said.