Four days after the fire at a garment factory in Baldia Town – men, women and children stood outside hospitals and the Edhi morgue, waiting for their turns to give their DNA samples to help identify their loved ones.
According to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital’s spokesperson Dr Saleem Raza, a total of 42 DNA samples were collected, including two on Friday. At Civil Hospital, Karachi, the doctors collected 17 DNA samples, while the staff at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre received 12 DNA samples. Civil hospital’s spokesperson Dr Kamaluddin Shaikh told The Express Tribune that the hospitals were asked to send all blood samples to the police who will then send them for testing. He added that they might call a team of experts to Karachi to hurry up with the DNA assessment.
However, Dr Suresh Kumar, the special secretary of health at the Sindh Health Department, said that all DNA samples were being sent to Islamabad. He added that around 99 bodies and 65 DNA samples had already been sent to the country’s capital. Although the process of matching and sampling DNA takes about 15 days, Kumar claimed that the government was trying to speed things up.
As the stench of burnt flesh haunted the Edhi morgue, the workers looked concerned with how long the unidentified 41 bodies would remain there. They said that it was not advisable to leave them there for so long. An Edhi representative, who has been looking after the bodies and handing them over to families since Tuesday, said that they usually did not keep bodies at the morgue for more than three days. “We can store the bodies here for three or four more days,” he said. “It will be difficult to do so after that. The government really needs to hurry up with the identification process.”
He added that besides giving their DNA sample to identify their loved ones, many families also came to the morgue to find their loved ones and recognised them by their clothes or items that belonged to them. He did not have a count of how many bodies had been handed over to the families.
According to a man who works at the morgue, when families came to collect the body from the morgue it created a lot of confusion since there was no official or proper way to record it.
“We are keeping the relatives Computerised National Identity Cards with us as record,” he said. “We cannot control this or stop people from taking the bodies with them. There is no way to double check anything.” A total of 218 bodies were taken to the Edhi morgue in Sohrab Goth. It has the capacity to store around 600.
Dr Kumar said that the bodies will be kept at the morgue for the six to ten days it will take the government to match DNA samples. In an effort to speed up the process, the government has placed advertisements in newspapers asking for help.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2012.