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Samoans begin burying victims

LALOMANU, Samoa – The relief effort in the tsunami-stricken Samoas entered its fourth day Friday as medical teams gave tetanus shots and antibiotics to survivors with infected wounds, and some frightened residents who fled to the hills after the disaster vowed never to return to their decimated seaside villages.

Grieving survivors began to bury their loved ones, while others gathered at a traditional meeting house to hear a government minister discuss plans for a mass funeral and burial next week. Many survivors wore face masks to reduce the growing stench of rot.

The death toll from Tuesday’s earthquake and tsunami rose to 169 as searchers found more bodies in Samoa, where 129 were confirmed dead, police commissioner Lilo Maiava told the Associated Press. Another 31 were killed in the U.S. territory of American Samoa and nine in Tonga.

Maiava said drowning appeared to be the main cause of death, and some bodies were still being plucked from the sea. Police dug others from sand, mud and debris. Maiava said the search for bodies could continue for another three weeks.