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Friday, June 18, 2021

Ordeal for Tauktae next of kin, only one body handed over so far as RT-PCR wait drags on

The authorities are conducting RT-PCR on the bodies to ensure families taking them home don’t face trouble in travel.

Written by Jayprakash S Naidu | Mumbai |
Updated: May 21, 2021 7:04:40 am
Relatives waited outside J J Hospital mortuary all of Thursday to identify and take possession of bodies. (Express photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

As the death toll from the sunken barge P305 climbed to 49, only one body of the 26 at J J Hospital mortuary had been handed over till Thursday evening to family members, who spent the day waiting outside.

The authorities are conducting RT-PCR on the bodies to ensure families taking them home don’t face trouble in travel. DNA test is also being done to ensure there is no mix-up with the bodies, some of which are highly decomposed after long hours in the water. Police said till Thursday evening RT-PCR tests had been done on 18 bodies at JJ, with results awaited of several.

Apart from 26 on barge P305, 11 crew members of tugboat Varaprada continue to be missing.

Those stranded on Barge P305 being hauled up on to INS Kochi, in Mumbai Wednesday. (Express Photo)

Authorities took down details of the around 50 family members and friends of the deceased gathered outside the mortuary, and sent them in by turns in small groups to identify the bodies. The only one for whom formalities had been completed till late evening was deceased engineer Jomesh Joseph.

Joyal, a family friend of the 35-year-old, said they had arrived at 9.30 am and got the body around 8.30 pm. He said the authorities told them they could hand over bodies only to relatives. While Joseph belonged to Kerala, he lived in Delhi with his wife, a nurse, and two children, 6 and 3. “We contacted the family and got an NOC from them. Then we were told that an RT-PCR test will be done,” said Joyal.

Around 9 pm finally, Joseph’s friends left with the body, which will be taken to Kerala for his last rites.

A colleague who did not want to be identified said Joseph had been sent by the private company for which he worked to the barge to install a control system. He had been onboard for a fortnight and was to return in a week’s time. “We want police to investigate the negligence of Afcons as well as ONGC. They cannot shrug away their responsibility. We want the negligence to be fixed.”

Among those waiting for the body of Golekh Chandra Sahu, 55, who belonged to Odisha, were his 18-year-old daughter and family friends. One of the friends said helplessly, “We are trying our best to take him home as soon as possible. His daughter is inconsolable. We do not know what is taking so much time.”

A police official said, “The RT-PCR test report of Sahu will come tomorrow. So we will hand over the body to them tomorrow as they need the test report to take him by flight.”

For Om Prakash Rajput, 29, among the lucky survivors from P305, the ordeal of 13 hours spent floating in the choppy waters continued on Thursday. He was at the mortuary to help identify bodies of colleagues.

An official from the private company that employed Rajput was overheard begging, “Sir, it’s night, please send Rajput home. He is on the verge of collapsing. Please send him home. He will not be able to identify more bodies.”

A family member, who also spent a day outside the mortuary, said it was not easy trying to make the identification. “Bodies are decomposed and bloated.”

An official with the Yellow Gate police station said, “In case of unidentified bodies, we have asked doctors to conduct a DNA test so that there is no confusion later. I say this because I sent the photo of one of the deceased to his relatives on WhatsApp as they are in Andhra Pradesh. They were not able to identify him. I then sent his batch number, but they are still to reply.”

In some cases, the official added, family members who live in other states are yet to arrive. “Hence anyone who is collecting a body apart from a family member needs to get an NOC. This is also resulting in delay.”

To help with the paper work and pacify agitated relatives, a team of over 10 police officers, including DCP, Port Zone, Ganesh Shinde, were present at the mortuary.

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