Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Jewelry, rubber bands used to identify dead

One of the women killed in flash floods and landslides in the Indian Himalayas last month was found clutching a thin rubber band with a few safety pins.

Police are using these items to help identify the woman, aged 55-60. Her body was found near Kedarnath Temple, a pilgrimage site in Uttarakhand and one of the places hardest hit by the mid-June floods.

Investigators are trying to identify nearly 200 bodies recovered from the floods. State government officials Monday said more than 5,700 people are still missing. Search and rescue operations are continuing but the missing are presumed dead.

Bodies that have been recovered have been cremated, because of lack of adequate storage, but police hope personal belongings, mostly jewelry, could provide clues about their identity. DNA samples were collected before bodies were burnt, Shashidhar Reddy, vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, told a news conference Monday.

Nilesh Anand Bharne, superintendent of police at Uttarakhand’s disaster management division, said valuables removed from the bodies of the deceased will be handed over to family members once they are identified.

Any that remain will be kept by the police for records, he added. “There’s been so much devastation. In some cases, bodies have been buried under buildings and debris and are unidentifiable,” he said. “In these cases, their ornaments and personal belongings are the way for family members to identify them.”

A new list of unidentified bodies is put online every two days, replacing previous lists.

The latest list has 18 individuals; nine men, eight women and one 12-14 year-old boy. He was about four feet 10 inches tall, had black hair and a very thin body, police said. He was found wearing a blue jacket and yellow sweater over black jeans and a blue nylon belt.

Another entry shows a photograph of two pink bracelets, a couple of rings and a black and gold nose stud. The items belonged to a female in her mid-to-late fifties who was around five foot three inches tall, according to the police. She was wearing a red sweater with white and blue stripes and a sky blue petticoat. Her body was also recovered from Kedarnath.

According to Mr. Bharne, 63 people from the overall list of 192 bodies have been identified. It was unclear how many of these identifications were a result of the list of personal effects and information on the state police website.

Tuesday 16 July 2013



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