Odisha train crash | 89 bodies await identification at AIIMS Bhubaneswar

Five cold storage containers sourced from Paradip port to supplement AIIMS Bhubaneswar’s mortuary capacity of 40 bodies; DNA samples being taken to prevent bodies from being wrongly handed over

June 07, 2023 10:40 pm | Updated June 08, 2023 10:39 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

Family members during identification of deceased passengers from the recent triple-train accident, at the AIIMS helpdesk, in Bhubaneswar, on June 7, 2023.

Family members during identification of deceased passengers from the recent triple-train accident, at the AIIMS helpdesk, in Bhubaneswar, on June 7, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

In addition to the 123 dead bodies that the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhubaneswar has already received from the triple train collision site in Balasore district since June 2, an additional 39 bodies were ferried in from private hospitals on Wednesday.

AIIMS Bhubaneswar’s mortuaries have the capacity to store only 40 dead bodies at a time. With an overflowing load due to the tragic accident that left 288 dead, five cold storage shipping containers were sourced from Paradip port on the east coastal district of Jagatsinghpur in Odisha to accommodate the bodies, official sources from AIIMS told The Hindu.

Each shipping container has the capacity to hold 20 bodies and is maintained at a temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius. “These containers have the capacity to preserve bodies for up to six months,” a senior AIIMS official said. The Ministries of Health and Shipping coordnated to source these containers.

AIIMS officials say that the hospital has handed over 73 bodies to relatives, and has now been left with 89 bodies which are being stored in the containers. The numbers quoted are dynamic in nature and are constantly being updated, officials said.

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Shipping coordinated to source these shipping containers from Paradip port.

While AIIMS has handed over 73 bodies, another nearly 37 have been handed over till June 7 by other health facilities where they were earlier being stored.

DNA sampling

Due to difficulties faced by relatives in identifying bodies of their kin who may have died in the accident, the hospital is preserving DNA samples of all bodies, AIIMS Bhubaneswar director Ashutosh Biswas told The Hindu. “AIIMS did not have the capacity to initially store all bodies and hence they were kept in different facilities. When multiple claims started pouring in for dead bodies, it was decided to shift all bodies to AIIMS for better co-ordination,” Dr. Biswas said.

By 6 p.m. on June 7, upto 49 blood relatives had submitted their blood samples in an effort to ascertain a DNA match so that they could be sure that it was their own deceased kin whose bodies they were claiming. A senior railway official said that some bodies were mutilated beyond recognition and DNA sampling was the only way left.

Missing body

For instance, 45-year-old Shibakanta Roy, a manual labourer from West Bengal, was searching for his 22-year-old son Bipul Roy’s body and claimed that Body No. 14 was that of his son. He was told earlier at Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) that another party had already claimed that body and taken it away. Shibakanta submitted his DNA sample in AIIMS on June 7 and was hoping that KIMS and AIIMS will co-ordinate to help him understand the status of his missing son.

On Wednesday, 33 of the 49 DNA samples were flown to the AIIMS in Delhi from Bhubaneswar. “Because the case is being handled by the Central Bureau of Investigation, it was deemed fit that DNA testing occurs in Delhi. The results are expected in seven to ten days,” Dr. Biswas said.

Contentious claims

“The relatives will be contacted if their DNA samples match so bodies can then be handed over. Also, we are ensuring that bodies are handed over to the immediate family, especially the wife or the mother of the deceased,” the railway official added.

On Wednesday, two cases surfaced where bodies had been sent off with claimants to Muzzafarpur and Bhagalpur in Bihar, before two families from Jharkhand surfaced claiming the same bodies.

“Instances such as these of contentious claims and bodies under dispute have created confusion and hence we are now being careful with handing over bodies, especially as they involve heavy compensation amounts of ₹10 to 15 lakh,” the railway official added.

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