Phuket Gazette

KHAO LAK: A volunteer helping to collect and wrap bodies in this epicenter of the tsunami tragedy issued an urgent appeal this morning for forensic experts to come to the shattered resort to help set up some system for identifying the dead.

John Dalley, originally from Leeds, England, but now a resident of Phuket, told the Gazette, “There are lots of people up here looking for loved ones and [the rescuers] are taking photos of the bodies.

“But the bodies are unrecognizable. You can’t even tell, in the vast majority of cases, whether they are Thai or Western – they are so badly blackened, decomposed and swollen.

“All these relatives are going to want to identify their loved ones. They only way they are going to be able to do this is through things like dental records, DNA or [fingerprints].”

Many of the bodies were stripped of clothing and any identification by the force of the wave. Mr Dalley said that, initially, samples of hair had been taken from bodies, but that this effort appeared to have stopped.

“There is still hair on the bodies, and that’s the sort of thing that’s going to be needed. It’s going to be a horrendous job trying to identify these bodies. There are three temples up here that are stacked high with coffins and wrapped corpses.

“Certainly, there must be in excess of 2,000 bodies. That would not be an exaggeration. That’s bodies that have been recovered.

Bodies are still being found over an astonishingly wide area. “Yesterday, a friend, Ian Redmond, was in a field about two kilometers from the sea and they were finding bodies there, dressed in swimming costumes.”

Mr Dalley also appealed for body bags to speed the work of collecting and wrapping corpses.

“We have been wrapping them in muslin cloth lined with plastic. Body bags would make a hell of a difference. It’s quite a long job wrapping them, rather than putting them in a bag and zipping them up, which would speed things up a lot,” he said.

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