NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Minister of National Security Marvin Dames yesterday sought to defend the pace of the identification of Hurricane Dorian victims, insisting that while the criticism is invited, the process is ongoing and takes time.
Dorian pounded the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama between September 1-3, claiming the lives of a confirmed 70 people — and displacing thousands.
The number of people still missing remain unknown and unreported by officials.
As of December, there were still 51 bodies that remained in refrigerated trailers on Abaco.
The remains of four people from Abaco, and all bodies found in Grand Bahama have been released.
Authorities say DNA sampling for those individuals could take as long as six months.
Dames noted that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will be aiding government in the DNA collection and identification process.
“We are moving ahead on victim identification,” he told reporters, on the sidelines of a press conference for the National Neighborhood Watch Council.
“We would have identified victims already.
“There are some as you know due to the level of decomposition and things of that nature, it’s not very easy to identify.
“Again, from a technological standpoint, getting DNA becomes that much more trickier, but the police are on top of it.
“They are working with the FBI and getting DNA. We are working with the Ministry of Health as well as the attorney general’s office.”
Dames insisted that the matter is “in hand”.
“I don’t know why other persons are making a big deal of that, that is well in hand and all of the stakeholders involved…we have had any number of meetings on this,” he added.“This is a very delicate process and it must be well thought out.”
Asked his thoughts on individuals questioning the slow movement of the identification of storm victims, the national security minister said, “It’s okay to criticize. Criticism is good.”
“But we are explaining the process as well and this is something we have been explaining from day one,” Dames continued.
“We continue to explain the process and how it works.”
Pointing to the impacts of Hurricanes Katrina, Matthew, and Maria on international countries, Dames noted, “many of these nations are still addressing the impact of these storms”.
Dames could not give a timeline on when those identifications are expected to be complete.
“Going through that process, you come back, you get your DNA, and you still may not be in the position to identify certain people,” he said.
“It’s not an easy process but rest assured we are working as quickly as we can, as hard as we can, to identify as many persons as we can, so that we can return them to their relatives.”
The government has also agreed to accept the assistance of the United Kingdom and the National Red Cross to aid in the identification of deceased Hurricane Dorian victims.