Uttarakhand Flood: Pyres are cold,identities preserved in photos of earrings,clothes,IDshttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/uttarakhand-flood-pyres-are-cold-identities-preserved-in-photos-of-earrings-clothes-ids/

Uttarakhand Flood: Pyres are cold,identities preserved in photos of earrings,clothes,IDs

Uttarakhand police preserve ‘clues’ for relatives of those they cremated

Uttarakhand Police has put up on its website pictures and detailed descriptions of over a hundred unidentified bodies that have been cremated in the Kedar valley.

Pictures of clothes and personal belongings too have been put up on the site in an attempt,the police say,to provide “clues” to the identities of the dead.

The pictures tell the stories of those who were killed within 10 kilometres of the Kedarnath shrine,swept away by the flash flood and the landslides that followed. They are intimate,poignant pieces of lives that no longer exist,of people whose pilgrimage turned into unexpected funerals.

There is a set of matching silver earrings and necklace with tiny blue stones,which belonged to a woman who was 5 feet 2 inches tall,and between 45 and 50 years of age. She was wearing a light orange blouse and green sari with a red lace border when death came.

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There are some safety pins and a kada from a man who was about 5-foot five and between 55 and 60 years of age,and was wearing a white vest and dhoti. He had salt and pepper hair.

Then there is a golden kada that was on the wrist of a frail,toothless man 60-65 years of age,who wore a red checked vest. And gold toe-rings and silver-and-red earrings from a woman in her mid-40s.

On some “lucky” bodies,as a senior police officer put it,purses were found from which ID cards were extracted. In the case of Subodh Mishra from Patna’s Shastri Nagar,police found three IDs — a press card,a PAN card and a driving licence.

For several “less lucky” others,police have put out descriptions of personal belongings that they hope someone might recognise: “Lakhani Touch” shoes,yellow “phooldar designer dhoti”,white dhoti with a “designer border”,red and blue checked jeans,black velvet jacket.

Also,details like tattoos,birth marks,and the shape,size,colour and length of beards.

For women,jewellery appears the best identity in death: bangles with mirrors in red,green and white,earrings,silver anklets,gold nosepins in round,pointy or square shapes,toerings,chains,necklaces,prayerbeads in many colours.

Police said 192 bodies had been cremated until Saturday,including around a hundred that were found downstream in Haridwar and up to Allahabad. On Friday,the Uttarakhand government put the number of missing at 5,748,all “presumed dead” for the purpose of disbursing compensation.

R S Meena,IG (law and order),said,“The number of bodies that we manage to cremate will be very small compared to the number of those missing. So we are doing everything we can to help preserve their identities. We are taking DNA samples from every body,and we are putting out details of identifying physical features like tattoos,height,weight,moles or birth marks,and a description of all their belongings,in the public domain.”

“We are trying our best to put out at least something for each body,which,who knows,may provide a small clue for a loved one to identify.”

Meena added that on Saturday,some people had come to the Uttarakhand police headquarters asking for their DNA to be taken for a possible match with samples from the bodies. “We have forwarded the request to our health department. But against 5,000-odd missing people,we have managed to extract samples from only about 300 bodies.”

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The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has put a link to the police webpage on its website.