Seventeen autopsies in a little over nine hours. Doctors and staff at the forensic department of Lok Nayak hospital had a long Monday, as bodies of victims from the Anaj Mandi fire kept being brought in one after the other.
By Tuesday evening, three faculty members, eight resident doctors, two technicians, two attendants and two sanitation workers had witnessed the post-mortem of 31 of the 34 bodies brought to the hospital’s mortuary. The rest of the bodies were taken to Lady Hardinge Medical College.
Adding to the pressure, relatives and friends of the dead had started gathering outside the mortuary since Sunday afternoon, soon after the magnitude of the tragedy became clear. Bodies of 34 victims were put into the mortuary’s cold storage until they were identified by family members or friends.
“As the identification process took all day, the post-mortems began from 10 am Monday. Families have been waiting to take the bodies back home, and we did not want them to wait any longer. Most of the bodies were to be taken to Bihar, and some to Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The delay would have only have aggravated their pain,” said Dr Sreenivas M, additional mortuary in-charge at Lok Nayak hospital.
The mortuary, which typically operates from 10 am to 3 pm, worked till 7.30 pm on Monday. At the moment, three bodies are pending autopsy, as the families haven’t arrived yet.
“We have three tables to perform autopsies; and we earmarked two of these for the fire victims. The third was kept to conduct routine autopsies. The dissection of most of the bodies was done in almost an hour,” said Dr Upender Kishore, the mortuary in-charge.
On an average, the department conducts six-seven post-mortems a day.
“In many past cases (where multiple people died), the families were from Delhi and nearby areas, and not much time was required for transporting the bodies. We conducted 12 postmortems in 2010, when a building collapsed in Geeta Colony. At the time of the Lal Kuan incident (a 1999 market fire in which 57 people died), the Lieutenant Governor called off the need for a post-mortem, and not a single autopsy was conducted,” said Dr Kishore.