The enormous task of handling the hundreds of bodies brought here from Guyana in the last three days has settled into a grim, well-organized routine.

For many of those processing the bodies, the sheer volume of human remains - 729 bodies have arrived here thus far - seems to have obscured the horror of the events that began in the tiny South American country a week ago today.

The second C141 cargo plane to land at the Air Force base today - the eighth flight overall - brought 197 bodies in 87 aluminium transfer cases an earlier flight had carried 100 bodies. Friday's total of 421 bodies on the previous six flights was revised today when mortuary workers opened one of the cases and found two children inside.

With an efficiency that has improved with each landing of the increasingly larger deliveries, two freight trailers were loaded with this morning's arrivals and were parked in an unused hangar in a former weapons storage area. They will stay there until mortuary teams can identify and process the remains - an effort that is expected to take up to three weeks.

The scene here - despite the organized routine and mechanical aspects - is not without its impact on the volunteers helping to process the victims.

"The children make a bigger impact on people," said Air Force Capt. Paul H. Wragg, whose office is counseling the volunteers who move the bodies from planes to freight haulers, then to the mortuary for identification and finally to refrigerator vans for storage. "They are finding more and more children as this thing goes on," Wragg said.

More bodies have been found at the Peoples Temple settlement in Jonestown, Guyana, bringing the death toll to around 900.

Wragg said a few volunteers have been overcome, not emotional reactions to the mass of decaying remains, but by "more of a physical revulsion to the smells and sights. It's very grisly."

However, for many of those involved, the operation translates into hundreds of gallons of embalming fluid pounds of powdered formaldehyde, dozens of pairs of surgical gloves, and shifts of pallbearers to meet the incoming cargo planes.

According to Col. William Mall. wing commander of the base, which was chosen because it has one of the largest military mortuaries in the country, the "tremendous logistical problem" has affected staffing in some areas. Although the task is "not something we would normally take in stride. I'm very proud of the way people have responded to it," he said.

There has been no shortage of volunteers to handle the bodies, according to Capt. Linda Arndt, supervisor of one shift of workers assigned to wash and disinfect the metal boxes, which are returned empty to Guyana to receive more remains.

Arndt said she and other workers feel "this was something that somebody had to do. You try to not to really talk about the gruesome aspect of it."

Patty Goad, 19, one of the few women assisting in lifting and carrying the body containers said she had not anticipated a detail of this kind when she joined the Air Force six months ago. Gesturing toward the boxes, she said:

When you see them all lined up there it just kind of shocks you, why people would want to kill themselves off like that."

The largest number of bodies previously handled at the mortuary here was 327 victims of a March 1977 plane collision at Tenerife, Canary Islands. Jonestown is a very different operation, according to Wragg, not only because of the larger numbers involved but because most of the remains from the runway accident were preserved before shipment here.

"I try to stay away from the volume," said Army Maj. Brigham Shuler, the Pentagon public affairs officer dispatched to manage the scores of reporters who have flocked to the base. "That shifts your perspective" to trying to provide "some small measure of dignity for the survivors. For all those bodies there are a lot of families."