Around 2,500 dead victims remain unidentified in earthquake zone

Prof. Ahmet Hilal, Association of Forensic Medicine Experts (ATUD) chair, said that around 2,500 dead people have not yet been identified in the quake-hit provinces, online news outlet Diken reported. Due to the discrepancy in records, the graves of 425 people were opened in Kahramanmaraş province.

Duvar English

Association of Forensic Medicine Experts (ATUD) chair Prof. Ahmet Hilal stated that approximately 2,500 dead victims that were pulled out from the rubble of the Feb. 6 quakes remain unidentified. The ATUD’s report revealed that many graves were opened due to discrepancies in records. 

As of March 6, the official death toll is 46,104 of the devastating earthquakes that hit southeastern Turkey.

Hilal told online news outlet Diken that the state should at least transparently disclose how many unidentified bodies have been buried so far in order to clear speculations on social media. 

After the earthquakes, those who cannot find their relatives alive or dead have been trying to get help by tracking them on social media. Some families have more than one missing person.

Hundreds of wounded and dead people were brought to hospitals in the first hours and days of the earthquakes. While the wounded were being treated in earthquake-damaged hospitals or tents, it was not easy to register the dead and take DNA samples.

According to Hilal, the bodies brought by relatives were buried on the initiative of prosecutors due to a lack of coordination and insufficient involvement of forensic medicine experts in the early days. 

In some regions, due to the discrepancy between the burial places of unidentified bodies and the records of the cemetery officials, some graves have been opened to take samples for identification. The graves of 425 people were opened in Kahramanmaraş alone.

Hilal also stated that earthquake victims were transferred both to neighboring provinces and to hospitals in Istanbul and Ankara. “There were moments when the wounded could not even be registered due to overcrowding. Those who died in the hospital may have been buried in another city. I don't think there are many dead bodies under the rubble, but it is a possibility," he added.

Speaking to T24, Turkish Medical Association (TTB) chair Şebnem Korur Fincancı said "There are few cases where an autopsy has been performed because it was not possible either due to bureaucratic processes or technical inabilities in the first days. However, usually the bodies were buried after coding of the fingerprints and other samples. Hence, the relatives and the unidentified bodies can be matched after relevant tests. So that they will be able to bury their relatives wherever they wish if they want to change their graves' location."

She stated that same process can be conducted for those bodies buried without identification after taking necessary samples from the graves and relatives.