Odisha train crash: Decision on unclaimed bodies soon

The AIIMS had received 162 bodies in two phases and started collecting DNA samples after 81 victims remained unidentified and some had multiple claimants.
FILE - Rescue operations at the Balasore train crash site. (Photo | AFP)
FILE - Rescue operations at the Balasore train crash site. (Photo | AFP)

BHUBANESWAR: Even as the bodies of 29 train crash victims remain unidentified at AIIMS-Bhubaneswar, the Centre in coordination with the state government is likely to take a call later this week on their disposal. Sources said an inter-ministerial decision will be taken on the modalities to dispose of the unidentified and unclaimed bodies as a meeting between officials of Railways, AIIMS and government railway police on Wednesday remained inconclusive.

No decision could be taken on further course of action as relatives of passengers killed in the train crash are still approaching AIIMS and railway authorities to provide DNA samples to claim bodies. While 52 DNA cross-matching reports have arrived, the profiling of four samples, including the one collected on Tuesday, is still pending.

“If all four samples match, at least 25 bodies will remain unclaimed. The Indian Railways, AIIMS or CBI alone cannot take a decision on such a sensitive matter. The decision will be jointly taken by the ministries of railways, home affairs and health in coordination with the Odisha government soon,” said the sources.

However, before the final call is taken, the railways may go for notification of a cut-off date giving a window to relatives of crash victims for identification of bodies. No claims will be entertained after the date so that it will be easier to take a decision on the disposal of bodies. The government is also undecided over mass cremation which, initially, was being weighed as an option as the deceased are from different faiths and religions.

Sources in the government said there may be mass burial of bodies which could be the safest possible way if scientific disposal of bodies (hand over to medical institutions for research) is not possible given their deteriorating condition.

Altogether 295 passengers were killed after Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express rammed into a stationary freight train on the loop line at Bahanaga Bazar railway station and derailed before hitting three rear-end coaches of Bengaluru-Howrah superfast Express on June 2.

The AIIMS had received 162 bodies in two phases and started collecting DNA samples after 81 victims remained unidentified and some had multiple claimants. Now 29 bodies are still stored in containers. Fifty-two bodies were handed over to their respective relatives as per DNA cross-matching reports.

AIIMS medical superintendent Dr DK Parida said of around 100 samples, 52 matched with the bodies. Several bodies may remain unclaimed as there are hardly any claims despite wide publicity. A decision for the disposal of bodies will be taken by the government soon, he added.

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