DNA test joy for 'Baby 81' couple

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The Independent Online

DNA test results today confirmed that a baby boy rescued from tsunami debris and dubbed "Baby 81" belongs to the couple who launched a court battle for his custody,.

DNA test results today confirmed that a baby boy rescued from tsunami debris and dubbed "Baby 81" belongs to the couple who launched a court battle for his custody,.

The finding ended weeks of uncertainty and drama surrounding the infant, who became a symbol of families torn apart by the 26 December tidal wave, and set the stage for a reunion on Wednesday with his parents Jenita and Murugupillai Jeyarajah.

"I am so happy, and I only have to thank God for giving my child back," the boy's father said. "We've got the results for all our hardships."

Eight couples originally had claimed the boy in the coastal town of Kalmunai. The Jeyarajahs were the only couple to file a formal claim, but they could not document it because the tsunami swept away their records.

The court had ruled that the baby must stay in the hospital until DNA tests could confirm his parentage, and the family underwent the testing last Wednesday.

The judge unsealed the results from an envelope during a hearing today, read them aloud and then ordered the couple, hospital officials and baby to appear before the court in two days, said S.H.M. Manarudeen, a child rights lawyer representing the couple.

"It has been confirmed that the baby belongs to that couple," court official Mohammed Nazir said. "We are about to issue notice to the parents and the hospital summoning them to court on Wednesday."

The child's name is Abilass, and he was born Oct. 19, the Jeyarajahs say. He was pulled from his mother's arms when the tsunami hit on Dec. 26, they say.

Rescuers found the baby amid mud, debris and corpses after the tsunami, and he was named "Baby 81" because he was the 81st patient admitted that day to the hospital in Kalmunai, 300 kilometers (185 miles) east of the capital, Colombo.

Jenita Jeyarajah has said that as soon as she regains custody of her baby, she will fulfill vows to smash 100 coconuts at a temple of the elephant-headed Hindu god, Ganesh, offer sweet rice to the warrior god, Murugan, and kill a rooster for the goddess Kali.

The family lost all their belongings to the tsunami and have been living in a camp close to the town.

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