Search and rescue teams on Saturday, the fourth day of operations at Malin village of Ambegaon in Pune district, retrieved bodies of landslide victims that were tough to identify.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams are pulling out decomposed bodies and body parts making it difficult for relatives of the dead to identify them. Earthmovers are being used to remove the mud and find bodies. NDRF personnel are exercising caution while extricating the bodies manually.
Raju Jhanjhare, a villager who lost three relatives, said that after the bodies of five deceased were discovered in the morning, he was summoned to the PHC but the bodies were so decomposed that he could not identify them.
Of the bodies recovered on Saturday, three were cremated unclaimed.
Villagers said in the case of some dead bodies cremated after formal identification, relatives claimed they were not very sure if they indeed were their kin because of the decomposition of the bodies. Sakharam Virnak, a villager who lost three family members and about 12 relatives, said that several bodies recovered on Saturday were so decomposed that it was difficult to identify them from their face or clothes.”
Mass cremation of the bodies was being carried out.
“I am looking at bodies as they are being recovered for the last four days hoping to see the remains of my relatives. Since morning, the bodies I saw are badly decomposed and mutilated. And we know that this will worsen. So what we decided is, instead of cremating bodies as unidentified, villagers cremate them as their kin,” said Virnak.
Even though identification was tough, several villagers said depending on sex of the recovered body, relatives were giving names of male or female kin who they know for sure died in the mishap.
“We have seen now body parts are coming out. It’s good to cremate bodies believing them to be your relatives than bear the pain to identify them by looking at their body parts,” he said.
Sachchidanand Gawade, deputy commandant with NDRF, said although his teams were taking care not to damage bodies, the level of decomposition and nature of rubble resulted in some mutilation.
“We are taking utmost care. Work of earthmovers is to loosen soil to find the remains. If the operator comes across remains of a house or chances of spotting a body, he sends us an alert following which our personnel explore the location manually so that bodies are not damaged. However, given the decomposition, bodies have become fragile and get damaged easily. The decomposition of a body starts after 24 hours of death,” he said.
District administration authorities said that with increased decomposition, autopsy will soon be stopped and bodies cremated after collection of DNA samples so that any confusion can be avoided in future.