Rescuer appalled at hurricane toll

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The Independent Online
A PUTRID smell drifts around a torn bag of plastic dinosaurs, pulled from the dirt of the hillside. Then a headless rag doll emerges. The family must be close. Barry Sessions scrapes away damp earth with his trenching tool and uncovers a bag of baby clothes. Evidence of life blinked out by Hurricane Mitch. "It was a mother, a grandmother and four children. They slept in the same bed," he said.

Mr Sessions is one of 10 volunteers from Rescue and Preparedness in Disasters, or Rapid, a group sponsored by the comedian Norman Wisdom. The volunteers are helping Honduras dig out the remaining bodies from the storm that killed some 10,000 people in Central America last month and left thousands more missing. About 60 of them are buried here in the district of Nueva Esperanza.

Relatives want to give family members a decent burial, or simply to have proof of their death.

Mr Sessions, a team leader from Devon, has been at this for more years than he cares to say. From Peru to Iran to Japan. He said he had just been doing a job that needed to be done.

But he never has seen anything like Mitch. No one has. "It's so big, you don't know where to start," he said. "When you find someone alive... that makes it all worthwhile. Here, there's no one alive," he breaks off, his eyes moist.