Identifying the dead 'could take weeks'

The Rescue
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The Independent Online

There was still no official confirmation that British people were among the dead last night as Austrian rescue workers began to remove the charred remains of an estimated 155 people who perished on Saturday in the country's worst civil disaster.

There was still no official confirmation that British people were among the dead last night as Austrian rescue workers began to remove the charred remains of an estimated 155 people who perished on Saturday in the country's worst civil disaster.

With the twisted hulk of the funicular carriage dangling perilously on a cable and the tunnel's walls emitting poisonous fumes, 80 firefighters in survival suits were hauling the bodies to the skiing station of Kitzsteinhorn. "The victims are beside, in and underneath the train," Franz Schausberger, the regional governor, said. They are to be flown today to a Salzburg clinic where forensic scientists will try to identify the victims.

Rescue workers say the victims are so badly burnt that in many cases only DNA analysis will establish for certain who they were.

As the region of Salzburg marks two days of mourning and masses are held in memory of the victims all over Austria, the government has promised a thorough investigation, conducted by the criminal police. That and the proper identification of the dead could take weeks.

British consular staff arrived yesterday at the scene of the disaster on the Kitzsteinhorn mountain. No British tour operators had reported holidaymakers who failed to return from a day's skiing, a spokesman said. On Saturday Downing Street said it was believed there were Britons among those who perished.

The police in Kaprun are piecing together a list of possible victims from reports of people missing. Besides the 115 already identified by nationality last night another 40 are said to be of "indeterminate nationality". Almost all of them were passionate skiers who had taken the funicular, built in 1974, to a snowboarding festival on the glacier above.

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