The agony goes on as relatives must wait for DNA tests on bodies

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The Independent Online

Many of the bodies hauled from the two Bali nightclubs wrecked by a car bomb were so badly burnt that DNA tests may be required to identify them.

Many of the bodies hauled from the two Bali nightclubs wrecked by a car bomb were so badly burnt that DNA tests may be required to identify them.

The Indonesian authorities said yesterday that even bodies identified by relatives would not be released until DNA tests had been completed or dental records provided. For British families, this means a delay of several days before the victims can be repatriated.

The policy is thought to have been adopted on the advice of a disaster victim identification team from the Australian Federal Police, which has sent 45 officers to Bali to assist with the investigation.

The authorities believe there is a real risk of badly burnt and decomposed bodies being falsely identified.

Alan Marshall, the British consul in Jakarta, who is overseeing consular operations in Bali, welcomed the Indonesians' decision.

"This is good news because it means the visual identification is secondary," he said. "The experts have told us that DNA tests are the only way to be 100 per cent sure."

Alexander Downer, the Australian Foreign Minister, said yesterday that, in the case of people who were very close to where the bomb went off, "the bodies have disintegrated".

The morgue at Bali's main hospital, Sanglah, remains severely overcrowded. Yesterday black body bags were piled up haphazardly on the filthy white tiled floor.

A thick trail of blood leads from the hospital entrance to the morgue, a five-minute walk along covered walkways. Dozens of plywood coffins are piled up in the yard outside the morgue, awaiting the day when bodies are released for burial or cremation.

Also in the yard are large piles of ice and several trucks commandeered to accommodate the overflow.

Clouds of flies buzz around the trucks; many bodies have been stored inside them on blocks of melting ice in sweltering temperatures. The morgue itself has only eight refrigerated cabinets.

Yesterday, a crowd watched as dozens of body bags were brought into the morgue from the trucks.

At the entrance, the bodies – each carried by six medical students in surgical masks – were sorted into Europeans and Asians, men and women.

Those that were impossible to identify were placed on one side. Television cameras zoomed in close as each bag was unzipped and the contents inspected.

Mr Downer, who toured the hospital yesterday, said that Australia had begun shipping in refrigeration equipment in an effort to relieve the pressure. "That's going to help substantially," he said. The families of British victims have arrived in Bali, hoping to identify lost relatives and take home bodies that have been positively identified.

The Home Office has flown in family liaison officers to help them through the process.

The Foreign Office in London announced yesterday that the Government would meet the cost of repatriating bodies and evacuating injured people, as well as reimbursing the travel and accommodation expenses of relatives of the victims who were not covered by insurance.

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