Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.
By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands said the government has released the remains of a few storm victims to their families, however there are about 50 unclaimed bodies in a refrigerated trailer in Abaco.
He added the government might use an independent third party to act as an intermediary so afraid undocumented migrants can identify the remains. Speaking outside Cabinet yesterday, Dr Sands said in Abaco four people have been identified and their remains released to their family members.
“In the trailer in Abaco, a significant number of bodies I believe probably about 50 (have not been claimed). DNA samples have been taken and the expected time from DNA sampling until comparison and conclusion can be as long as six to nine months,” he said. “That is the international standard or timeline unless you use rapid DNA techniques. There are still a number of remains in Abaco, four persons have been released to their families. All of the others remains (are) yet to be identified, yet to be released.”
He said officials would like to curtail the length of time the bodies are kept in the Abaco trailer.
“In Abaco…we’d like to limit the length of time. We have remains in New Providence that would have been here in refrigerated trailers for years. There is no absolute limit as to how long you can keep refrigerated remains. In this instance however at that facility to have a trailer sitting there for an indefinite time is not ideal and so what we would like to be able to do is to be very aggressive in terms of making it safe and easy for individuals to identify.”
He continued: “Bear in mind that some people may be afraid to come forward if their immigration status is not ideal. This problem is not unique to The Bahamas and so (a consideration is) to have an independent third party perhaps act as an intermediary so that the process of identification can take place.”
Dr Sands said not much progress has been made for the burial site for the unidentified remains of people killed by Hurricane Dorian.
“You would have heard that we had a discussion about burial in a dignified fashion. We will need to identify a site and identify a grid so that these bodies can be interred at the appropriate point and exhumed if their loved ones are able to identify them so the remains can be turned over to their families,” he said.
Yesterday evening, Dr Sands released more information on the deceased victims which noted as of December 1, 55 bodies/remains were recovered in Abaco while 47 bodies/remains had been examined.
There were 51 total remains in the trailer as of December 1, inclusive of an arm and a head, and eight bodies had not yet been examined. According to the release, six deaths in New Providence “related to Hurricane Dorian remain unchanged.”
The official death toll from Dorian is 70, however officials have said the number could be greater.
According to NEMA officials, there are ten confirmed deaths in Grand Bahama and 60 confirmed deaths in Abaco.
National Security Minister Marvin Dames said in October that police have reports of 282 people still missing, the majority of them from Abaco.