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Tsunami bodies arrive in Mai Khao



TAH CHAT CHAI: Interior Minister Bhokin Bhalakula and Phuket Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura today visited Mai Khao Cemetery, to which the bodies of foreigners who died in the December 26 tsunami are being moved for identification and repatriation.

The mass transfer of tsunami victim corpses from Phang Nga to Mai Khao Cemetery, at the north end of the island, began yesterday with the arrival of 315 bodies.

The Disaster Victim Identification center at the cemetery, which is an existing sea gypsy burial ground, has now officially been renamed the International Repatriation Center (IRC).

A total of some 1,800 bodies of foreigners will be kept at the IRC in about 150 refrigerated shipping containers, while forensic experts continue their work on identifying them.

K. Bhokin said he was satisfied with how the work is being conducted and that there were enough forensic experts and the right equipment to get the job done.

“I think this work will take longer than six months. I have ordered for electricity to be continually supplied to the cemetery, but there are generators ready to use in case the mains supply cuts out by accident,” he said.

K. Bhokin declined to say what will be done with the bodies that the DVI experts cannot identify. “I will need to time to think about this matter,” he said.

A ceremony led by 25 Buddhist monks and representatives of other major faiths was held to mark the passing of a month since the tsunami struck, during which a Wall of Remembrance built at the site was blessed.

Friends and family members waiting for loved ones to be returned may leave photographs, flowers or other mementos of those lost in the disaster.

One local resident, who asked to be named only as “Khun A”, said that the Wall of Remembrance and using the site for the IRC was a good idea because it would encourage visitors to come there to remember their loved ones.


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