NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The remains of 55 Hurricane Dorian victims will be buried during a remembrance service on Abaco today.
The Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) has maintained the victims will be interned individually.
Officials have confirmed that best practices have been used in identification of each set of remains, and forensic DNA analysis is still ongoing.
In a statement, the DRA noted that laboratories have shifted priorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite some delays within the operations of laboratories internationally, the Royal Bahamas Police Force has indicated that collaboration with a highly recognized laboratory, very skilled in dealing with DNA sampling, is proving good results,” it advised.
“It is anticipated that the receipt of some results is expected soon. The analysis of the samples proved very difficult and challenging.
“Hence, more specialized DNA analysis methods were sought, which impacted the ability to provide closure to families in a timelier fashion.”
The DRA however assured that for the burial process, the remains have been numbered, the sealer caskets are numbered and the graves will be numbered with weatherproof plates.
“This system will assist in providing certified death certificates,” the statement noted.
“Those numbers match the DNA sampling of each decedent. When the forensic exercise is complete each family will be afforded the choice of family memorialization.”
The service and burial are scheduled for the Public Cemetery, S.C. Bootle Highway, Central Pines.
The service is being led by the Abaco Christian Council and its President, Pastor Edgburt Tinker. The Chief Celebrant is Pastor Tinker. He is assisted by Archdeacon Earl Hepburn and other ministers of the gospel.
According to Archdeacon Keith Cartwright, there will be a graveside ecumenical service followed by a burial, taking into consideration the necessary COVID-19 protocols.
Cartwright said the ceremony will be a time for all to “remember the impact Hurricane Dorian has had on our communities and as good Christian people pay our final respects”.
Anglican Bishop Laish Boyd is hopeful the service helps bring closure for the families who lost relatives.
Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder also offered his support and condolences to those still in grief.
Dorian pounded the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama between September 1-3, claiming the lives of a confirmed 74 people — and displacing thousands, many of whom resided in shantytown communities in Abaco.
Officials have reported that 282 people remain missing; however, the actual toll is expected to be much higher.
The government had allocated some $275,000 for the burial of unclaimed Dorian victims – which was expected to come from the consolidated fund, according to a Ministry of Health post-Dorian strategic response plan of action.