ISLAMABAD: It will be one more agonising week before family members of many who died in the Wednesday’s plane crash can take home the bodies of their loved ones.
“The DNA test reports will take one week,” Professor Anwarul Haq, head of the Pathology department at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), told The Express Tribune. “It is a lengthy process as the bodies are charred and it is difficult to trace them or link them to the DNA samples provided by their family members,” he said.
Family members of those who were on board Airblue flight ED-202, which crashed into the Margalla Hills killing all 152 on board, arrived in Islamabad from Karachi on Wednesday night to claim the bodies. Relatives were asked to provide their blood samples so that DNA tests could be conducted and bodies identified.
A team, comprising over a dozen paramedics and medics from Pims, conducted the tests at the Aabpara Community Centre Islamabad (ACCI). Headed by Dr Tariq Malik, the team has so far identified 78 bodies and handed over 66.
Twelve bodies were identified with the help of data available with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) while the remaining bodies were identified by their relatives. “Ten bodies were recognisable, the rest were just limbs. Relatives identified the bodies through hands, feet or other body parts,” said an official of the hospital.
The camp has been working 24 hours a day since it was formed on Wednesday and Professor Haq said that until Wednesday evening, about 46 family members of the air crash victims had come in for DNA testing. “We are expecting more families to visit the camp on Thursday as we believe that a majority of them could not manage to come to Islamabad due to the heavy rain.”
He said that so far, they had made 213 bags of body parts that were collected by rescue workers from the site of the plane crash. “These body parts have been moved to a morgue in sector I-10.”
“Twenty-four more people have yet to submit their DNA samples. The process will hopefully be completed by Friday,” said the Deputy Commissioner (DC) Islamabad Amir Ali Ahmed.
DHO Dr Amirzada Khan, who is supervising the process at the community centre, said that DNA samples of family members will be send to the KRL Hospital in Islamabad for testing. “It is a long and time-consuming procedure. At a time, we cannot test more than 15 to 20 DNA samples and it requires special care.”
“One week is too long. We cannot bear to live one second without my father. We will only accept the reality once we are able to see his body,” said Saad Saleem. Saad had arrived on Wednesday evening and had been searching for his father’s body ever since. His father, Mohammad Saleem, had been the president of the cable operators association in Karachi and was travelling to Islamabad for a meeting of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
“First, I went to the hospital. I spent all night, checking coffins but did not find him. In the morning, the hospital management said that all body parts had been moved to the cold storage in I-10 and told me to give my DNA sample at the community centre,” he said.
Hayatullah Tareen, who had come to claim the body of his brother Ainullah, had been through the same predicament. “His [Ainullah] wife and children are desperately waiting for me back home. No matter what condition the body is in, all we want is to see his face or his remains to satisfy ourselves,” he said.
Referred to the community center by Pims administration, Tareen rushed to give a DNA sample. “The test is our last hope, but how will we wait for one whole week. Since Wednesday, every second has felt like an hour.”
Among those who were killed in the crash was an Austrian doctor Dr Mirco, whose friend was seen searching for his body at the community centre. “I have no way to find him as his family is in Austria and no one is currently here to give a DNA sample,” he said, adding that he had contacted the Austrian embassy for assistance. (WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ZAHID GISHKORI AND UMAR NANGIANA)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2010.