New Delhi, June 6
After the triple-train accident that killed 278 persons, another tragedy is unfolding in Bhubaneswar: Medical experts are braving the challenge of preserving mangled human remains to enable families to identify their missing relatives.
Of the 278 killed, as many as 101 are yet to be identified. AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, alone received 123 bodies, of which only 64 have been identified. Top experts on Tuesday said the window for embalming the bodies had narrowed and DNA sampling of the deceased and the relatives was the only way forward.
“For embalming to be of value, blood vessels have to be intact so that the embalming fluids can reach the body and preserve it. That unfortunately is not the case with most of the bodies retrieved from the accident site,” top forensic expert Indrajit Khandekar told The Tribune. He said embalming was useful before a body started to decompose.
“Here in peak summer, we have less than a six-hour window to start embalming. So, that is the second big challenge,” said Khandekar, Professor of Forensic Medicine at Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sevagram, Wardha (Maharashtra).
Top AIIMS experts also said DNA sampling was the best way forward. Hair, teeth and blood samples of the deceased could be collected as DNA, Khandekar said. “While hair and teeth can be stored for very long, well-preserved blood samples from the bodies—preferably blood stains dried up on a cloth—can be preserved for 10 years to assist identification of bodies,” he said.
The experts said DNA samples would need to be taken from families who report missing wards and the samples from the deceased and relatives then matched to determine identity. “We have to guard against improper embalming, which has in the past led to cases of mistaken identities,” Khandekar added.
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