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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Relatives' anger at identification delay
A woman (L) talks to hospital staff manning an information counter in Sanglah, Denpasar, Bali
Getting information is a slow and frustrating process

After last Saturday's devastating bombing in Bali, the natural reaction for worried families has been to rush to the island in the hope of finding their loved ones alive.


Five days after the explosion, police are not even sure how many people were killed

Or at the very least of being able to identify them and take their remains home as soon as possible.

Instead, friends and relatives have been met by scenes of chaos and confusion that have left many of them angry and frustrated.

What has become rapidly clear is that Bali is utterly unprepared for dealing with such a crisis.

Insufficient facilities

Hospital facilities have been overwhelmed. There is no burns unit, and no doctors capable of dealing with the terrible burns inflicted on many of the victims.

All of the foreign injured have now been evacuated to Australia. But scores of Indonesian victims remain behind.

Singapore has sent a team of burns doctors to the island but they can barely cope with the numbers involved.

But it is the way that the remains of those killed have been dealt with, and the slowness of their identification, that is upsetting people the most.

Painful process

Australian police officer Julian Slater
Australian police officer: Some victims may never be identified
The morgue at Bali's main hospital has room for only 10 bodies. Suddenly they have had to find room for more than 180.

Bodies have had to be stacked one on top of the other and then packed with ice. But still there is not enough room and not enough body bags.

Eye-witnesses say some of the victims' bodies were left lying outside in the blazing sun for more than a day after the bombing.

The identification of the victims has also been painfully slow.

At first some relatives were allowed into the morgue to try and identify the bodies visually.

DNA sampling

But many were too badly burnt to be identified by sight. Instead, they would have to use other means - dental records and DNA matching.

Indonesian police have neither the skills nor the sophisticated equipment to carry out such testing.

And so Australian forensic specialists have had to be brought in to take over the operation. But even they admit it will be a long, painstaking task.

DNA samples will have to be taken from all the families who think they may have a relative among the dead.

Samples will then have to be sent to laboratories in Australia for testing and matching. Only when that is done can the remains be finally released to their families.

Death toll confusion

Five days after the explosion, police are not even sure how many people were killed.

They say they have 180 bodies in the morgue, but the bodies of many other victims disintegrated in the force of the enormous blast, leaving only body parts to be identified.

Australian police today admitted that the process has only just begun.

It could be well more than a month until it is completed. In the meantime, families are being told they are better off going home, or staying there if they have not yet set off.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bali
"Some people are still not able to take the bodies of their loved ones home"

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17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Oct 02 | UK
14 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
15 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
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