Health ministry defends storage of Dorian victims’ remains in Abaco

Health ministry defends storage of Dorian victims’ remains in Abaco
An aerial shot of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, in the immediate wake of deadly Hurricane Dorian. (FILE PHOTO)

‘All victims will be buried with dignity’ says ministry

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Ministry of Health yesterday sought to clarify several claims circulating on social media surrounding the bodies of Hurricane Dorian victims being kept in coolers on Abaco.

Labeling them as “baseless and inaccurate”, the ministry pointed to claims made in a widely circulated video and statements made by Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin.

Hanna-Martin raised concerns that the bodies have been de-icing due to generator issues, and further claimed there is no lock on the container, and there is a stench and swarms of flies in the area where the bodies are being kept.

These baseless allegations are untrue,” the Ministry of Health statement read.

“There are remains of 51 deceased persons being stored in a refrigerated cooler adjacent to the Marsh Harbour Clinic.

“At this time, there are no remains being stored in the built-in morgue coolers.

“The refrigerated cooler has been wired into the electrical breaker of the Marsh Harbour clinic for months. The clinic has been on the re-energized grid since November 2019.

“It has a functioning back-up generator which is serviced monthly. A lock was placed and maintained in place for more than two months.

“There are security officers on the premises.”

The ministry noted that since the restoration of municipal power to the island’s clinic, BPL has functioned at better than 90 percent efficiency.

It furthered that there has been no power losses to the trailer and no degradation of the remains being.

Additionally, the ministry noted that in the event of a catastrophic failure, the 40-foot unit also has a back-up generator which could power the container if needed.

Responding to the claim of a “stench, fresh or old remnants of bodily fluids at or around the trailer and suggestion that there are unusually large populations of flies attracted to the trailer”, the ministry insisted that they are “pathetic falsifications”.

There was an inspection conducted at the site by the clinic’s administrator Kyron Darville and ACHS Charlene Bain on January 17, the statement advised.

It also advised that the integrity of the remains have been verified the ministry’s pathology team on the same date.

In response yesterday, Hanna-Martin called the ministry’s defense “laughable”.

“This horrible state of affairs compounds the tragedy of Hurricane Dorian,” she said.

“The government’s utter failing over these several months is disgraceful and inhumane.

“Again we call for the immediate dignified and respectful removal of these remains.

“This grotesque situation playing out in the life of Abaconians is almost unspeakable and not consistent with our values as a Bahamian people.”

Dorian pounded the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama between September 1-3, and displacing thousands and killing at least 70 people.

Authorities have previously said they expect the final death toll to be “staggering”.

Of the 55 Dorian related deaths recovered in Abaco, the remains of four persons have been identified and released.

The ministry statement read: “Upon completion of all efforts to ensure identification, all the victims will be buried with dignity. The people of Abaco have suffered tremendously.

“These insensitive and reckless false claims add to their pain and suffering.

It added: “At least one of the persons should know better and seek confirmation before affirming misinformation.”

The government has agreed to accept the assistance of the United Kingdom and the National Red Cross to aid in the identification of those victims.