GUIUAN, Philippines — People swept dirt from the pews and wiped clean the mud-covered, ornate tile floors of a church. The sound of hammers hitting nails and the buzzing of chain saws reverberated in the streets. Debris was piled on corners and set ablaze.
And amid all this activity, a stream of bodies continued their final journey toward a hillside mass grave where nearly 170 had been buried by Friday afternoon. The Philippines’ main disaster agency said Saturday the death toll stood at 3,633 with 12,487 people injured. Another 1,179 people are missing.
Most of the casualties occurred on Leyte and Samar islands.
One week after Typhoon Haiyan razed the eastern part of the Philippines, leaving 600,000 homeless, resilient residents of the disaster zone were rebuilding their lives and those of their neighbors.
An international aid effort gathered steam, highlighted by the helicopter drops conducted from the American aircraft carrier USS George Washington. But the storm victims moved ahead — with or without help from their government or foreign aid groups.
“We’re starting to see the turning of the corner,” said John Ging, a top U.N. humanitarian official in New York. He said 107,500 people have received food assistance so far and 11 foreign and 22 domestic medical teams are in operation, including an Israeli one.
“The field hospital capacity that the Israelis can mobilize is top class, and we have seen it very, very effectively in many other crises as well,” he said.
Peter Degrido, a coast guard reserve, was one of the 35 workers trying to move an overturned passenger bus from a road leading to the airport in Guiuan, a town on Samar island. They hitched the bus to a truck with steel cables and made slow progress. Ahead of them lay many downed electricity poles that must be moved next.
“We’re clearing debris from the roads leading to the airport and the port so that relief goods and medicine can arrive faster,” Degrido said. “It’s devastating to see this. But people are slowly recovering.”