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Dames: Dna Identification Of Storm Victims 'Well Underway'

Marvin Dames, Minister of National Security.

Marvin Dames, Minister of National Security.

By FARRAH JOHNSON

fjohnson@tribunemedia.net

DNA identification for storm victims who died during Hurricane Dorian is well underway, according to National Security Minister Marvin Dames.

Mr Dames confirmed that officials are "moving ahead" with victim identification yesterday during a press conference at the Paul Farquharson Conference Centre.

"We would have identified victims already," he said. "There are some as you would know due to the level of decomposition and things of that nature, it's not very easy to identify. And 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 in getting DNA, we're working with the Ministry of Health, as well as the Attorney General Office."

Insisting that victim identification is "well in hand," Mr Dames said officials are taking the matter very seriously.

"This is a very delicate process and it must be well thought out. Any time you're dealing with the death of someone, that person has a loved one....we have to sit back, pause for a second and let the process take its course."

Asked to respond to persons criticising the length of the identification process, he added: "It's okay to criticise. Criticism is good, but we're explaining the process as well and this is something that we have been explaining from day one.

"…We have never been here before. We would have just experienced the most devastating natural disaster in our country's history and maybe this region and as a country of this size, you're going to have growing pains.

"Look at Katrina in the United States and look at Matthew in Puerto Rico and Dominica, many of these nations are still addressing the impact of these storms."

Stating officials' number one concern was bringing relief to persons who would have lost their "loved ones, homes and communities" in the wake of the storm, he added: "For example in Grand Bahama most of the bodies had already been identified and turned over.

"When you have this kind of catastrophe (or) disaster, sometimes the identification of bodies given...the state of decomposition...becomes that much more complicated. And that's my point when I say that we have to understand that that is the process."

Mr Dames said immediately after the storm, he and Health Minister Dr Duane Sands met with an American expert who "deals with the recovery of bodies in natural disasters all over the world."

He told reporters that the US official commended Bahamian officials for the way they were executing the process.

"We invite criticism," he said. "That's what it's all about because criticism is important (and) it makes us better especially when it comes from those persons who would have experienced and lived the storm."

Still, Mr Dames did not share a timeline for the completion of storm victim identification.

"I can't give a date on that because that's a process," he said. "Even when you would have gone through that process you still may come back. (When) you have your DNA, you still may not be in the position to identify certain people."

"...Any nation that would have faced a disaster of this magnitude they will tell you from their experience that this is not a simple (or) easy process, but rest assured that we're working (and) 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. That's very important for us and we take that very seriously."

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