While the tragedy of having lost their loved ones is hard enough to bear for the people affected by the Kollam temple fire, several of them will have to deal with the additional burden of the bodies of their relatives being disfigured beyond recognition.
The Kollam fire tragedy has claimed 102 lives and the bodies are being sent to Kollam district hospital. According to the Casualty Medical Officer at the district hospital, Dr Harish Mani, 43 people were brought dead. Post mortems are being conducted, and where legal and medical procedures have been completed, families have been allowed to identify their deceased relatives and claim the bodies. Around 80 bodies have been claimed by relatives.
However, doctors say that the faces of around 20 of the deceased are too disfigured to be recognized. When the fire and subsequent blast occurred, fire balls and chunks of building shrapnel flew around, hitting some people on the face. Because of this, their faces are too disfigured and may entail DNA tests if relatives cannot identify them with birth marks, jewellery or clothing.
Several ambulances were kept on standby to transport bodies which had been identified by families.
The deaths occurred either by direct injuries from the flying shrapnel and fireballs, or because of being buried under debris.
Dr. Mani says that the district hospital has so far treated around 100 people, some of whom were given first aid and sent home. Others are still recuperating at the hospital. Many of the injured had turned up with lacerations on their bodies, and had small stones, and other particles stuck in the skin on account of either being injured directly by flying shrapnel, or by sustaining wounds when they fell from the impact of the blast.
Around 10 doctors, who were on call, including Dr. Mani who had left the hospital after they finished their shift, were summoned back. They have been working since around 4 am, when the bodies and injured started arriving.