SRIFA, Lebanon—Residents in Srifa, near the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, began burying their dead today having only yesterday started pulling the bodies from under rubble that now swamps the town.
The first arriving aid agencies believe Srifa has been the "worst hit" town in Lebanon in terms of damage caused by Israeli bombs. Agencies are estimating that some 70 percent of the buildings here having been destroyed.
The local death toll presently stands at 45. But it is expected to rise in
Mahal Said displays photos of her sons, whom she says were killed in the recent war. (the next couple of days, especially after the discovery Friday that 27 people where killed in one of the obliterated houses.
Most of the bodies found so far have been buried in the debris from the blasted buildings. Residents also returned to find bodies, many dismembered, scattered through the streets.
For some it was simply too much, as they broke down in tears at witnessing the extent of the devastation first hand.
A local woman named Mahal Said stood in the remains of her home holding up pictures of two men. She says they were her sons, both of whom had been killed by the bombs.
Srifa - what remains of parts of the town. (Jonathan Erasmus)
"They've taken my sons," she said, "they've taken them from me forever. My family has been broken by these bombs."
Ahmed Jabet, a local teacher and father of three, returned from refuge in Sidon today to find his family home had been flattened.
"Everything here is ruined. I have nothing now but what you see," he said.
"I never imagined it could be this bad. Just look what they have done," he said, pointing at the seemingly endless mass of wreckage surrounding him.
One of the major challenges facing aid workers here is not only distributing aid effectively, but also ensuring the safety of the residents and workers due to the hundreds of unexploded bombs believed to be in the region.
A funeral procession in Srifa. (Jonathan Erasmus)
One 200lbs bomb that had not detonated was dug up Friday afternoon next to a house in the town center. The major fear is the more difficult to recognize hand-sized cluster bombs that, according to one mine disposal expert in Srifa, "are capable of destroying anything within a 100 meter range".
Hans Musswessels, Operations Director of the German aid agency Humedica, said that the returning residents were in immediate need of his organization's help. "They have no food, no water, no shelter and no medical aid."
"In terms of the damage caused by the Israeli bombs, this is most probably the worst hit town in Lebanon."
A funeral precession compromised of local soldiers, men, women and children passed through what remains of the town, mostly silent but for the cries of the mothers who have lost there husbands and sons here.
With the bombing over for the time being, Lebanon now faces perhaps the largest humanitarian crisis in its history and the people in Srifa appear to be suffering the worst.