NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Health Minister Dr Duane Sands yesterday said the government is working to ensure a ‘seamless’ process’ for the identification of recovered Hurricane Dorian victims.
Sands noted a number of the recovered bodies are in an advanced state of decomposition, and will require DNA testing.
He lamented hundreds of families remain in ‘anguish’ over the fate of their missing loved ones in the wake of the deadly storm.
There is still one woman in the morgue in Grand Bahama that has not been identified, along with 40 recovered remains in Abaco, Sands said.
“We believe that the public needs to know exactly how they can find out whether a missing loved one is in one of the morgues, either in Grand Bahama, Abaco or in New Providence,” he said. “There is information that ought to be readily available and we think that should be made public so that people know exactly where to go, who to speak to and what numbers to call.”
Sands said: “The process for a family member who believes that a loved one may be missing will include that initial inquiry. We will ask quite a bit of information about where was the person last seen, what were they wearing, do they have any identifying characteristics, do they wear braces, do they have scars, have they had any surgery on a limb, do they have any particular tattoos.
“Given the fact that a number of bodies are in an advanced state of decomposition a request will be made for DNA since all of the autopsied remains have had DNA samples done. We then would compare that DNA with the existing data base of victims and if your loved one is in one of the morgues then those remains will be turned over to the family for the appropriate last rights.”
Sands said: “What we would like to do is engage the Attorney General, National Security and Social Services to make sure this process is seamless. I think we had an unfortunate discrepancy last week and we would like to avoid anything like that.”
Last week Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell said 1,208 are still unaccounted for following Hurricane Dorian, however National Security Minister Marvin Dames later clarified that police have reports of just 282 people still being missing.
Dr. Sands continued: “I have met with family members who are seeking loved ones. The great difficulty is that many people have heard so many different stories. This particular family would have heard that someone saw their loved one after the storm, that someone saw her remains after the storm and they not know what to think.”
He added: “There are hundreds of families still in anguish, still very much concerned about the people they care about and I think our role now is to try as best as possible to bring some closure to help people to get to the trust about what has happened to their family members, loved ones and friends. Whatever we can do to ease this burden I think we
should try it.”