KARACHI, Dec 9: Police investigators have sent fresh samples, collected again from the 33 unidentified bodies at the Edhi morgue, to a forensic laboratory in Islamabad for DNA matching with the families whose loved ones have been missing since the Sept 11 Baldia Town factory inferno.
The exercise for the identification of the 33 bodies, which are beyond recognition, was started afresh following a recent Sindh High Court directive in the Baldia factory fire case, while the families of many victims desperate to know their fate for the past three months have been told to wait for another two weeks.
The process, officials said, could take 15 to 20 days.
“We had collected the samples on Nov 30,” said Dr Jalil Qadir, the police surgeon who heads a medical team tasked with the job.
He said: “Thirty one complete bodies are beyond recognition, while two others can’t be said complete bodies but fragments of bodies. The samples of all 33 objects were collected and handed over to the police investigators for further process.”
He said the Sindh health department had conducted a similar exercise some three months ago. However, there were some ‘complications’ that could not lead to complete results of the sampling.
His observations matched comments of Sub-Inspector Jehanzaib of the SITE-B police station, the investigation officer of the Ali Enterprises inferno that killed more than 250 people in September.
“In the previous exercise, we had sent samples of 76 unidentified bodies,” the police officer said.
“We kept sending reminders and requested them to expedite the process. Once or twice they mentioned some lacking or something missing but mostly the delay was on the part of the laboratory,” he added.
He said the fresh identification process was initiated under the Sindh High Court directives to make the process more transparent and flawless.
This time, he said, extra care had been taken in collection of bodies’ samples as well as blood samples of the claimant of the bodies for matching.
“But it would take 15 to 20 days to complete the process. I agree it is hard to satisfy the family members of the missing workers and to give them an exact timeframe for the completion of the process after so much delay,” he added.
While hearing two petitions related to the Baldia Town factory fire, the Sindh High Court earlier last week was informed that only 16 bodies could be identified through the earlier DNA testing.
The bench ordered the case investigation officer to take fresh samples from the family members to test the 33 unidentified bodies.
The authorities had declared a total of 259 deaths in the fire that engulfed the Baldia factory on the eve of Sept 11 and took more than 18 hours to extinguish with over 50 firefighters taking part in the operation using almost all available machinery and equipment of the fire department.
As the process of bodies’ identification remained inconclusive, the agony of the victims’ families has yet to end. It also gave birth to challenges for other institutions involved in the process.
The Edhi Foundation, which has been looking after the unidentified bodies for almost three months at it morgue, has finally asked the authorities to settle the issue or allow it to bury the remains.
“It’s quite difficult for us to manage the task,” said Anwar Kazmi, the administrator of the Edhi Foundation.
“Last week, we informed the police authorities and sought permission from other relevant authorities for the burial in our Mowach Goth graveyard within the next 10 days. However, the plan was put on hold on a police request and also under the Sindh High Court directives.”