The death toll from the 6 February earthquakes in Turkey has surpassed 45,000, with many people still missing, and forensic scientists have reported that approximately ten percent of the earthquake victims in Hatay’s Antakya district have been buried without identification, while in the provinces of Kahramanmaraş (Mereş), Adana, Osmaniye, and İskenderun district of Hatay, the proportion of unidentified bodies buried is around five percent
Around 5,000 people have been buried without being identified since the devastating 6 February earthquakes in Turkey, a forensic scientist told Birgün newspaper on Wednesday.
There are still many people missing in the earthquake zone in Turkey. So far, authorities have not made an official statement on the number of bodies that have been buried without identification, or on the number of missing persons. In the search for their loved ones, the relatives of lost earthquake victims are taking DNA tests to try and identify the bodies.
As the death toll surpasses 45,000 in the quake-affected zone, forensic scientists study the results of the earthquakes in the worst-hit provinces.
Head of the Society of Forensic Medicine Specialists Prof Dr Ahmet Hilal told Birgün that around ten percent of earthquake victims in Hatay’s Antakya district have been buried without being identified. The proportion of unidentified bodies buried in the provinces of Kahramanmaraş (Mereş), Adana, Osmaniye, and İskenderun district of Hatay is around five percent.
“These are the cities we have visited up to now. It is very difficult for someone not to be able to reach a relative, dead or alive,” said Hilal noting that immediately after the earthquake, the prosecutor’s office was handing bodies over to relatives simply on the basis of their statements, regardless of DNA test.
Recalling that two families in Antakya and Adana had been given the wrong bodies, Hilal noted that it would have been possible to identify those bodies using the fingerprints on the new-style ID cards. He added that this was the most usual way for the authorities to determine the identities of bodies.
“But the number of people who do not have such ID cards or whose fingerprints cannot be taken is very high,” the forensic specialist said.
Prof Dr Halis Dokgöz of Mersin University, who worked in the same team as Hilal, stressed that the authorities had not been able to properly use the first 24 hours, which is critical for the identification of the victims as it is still possible to take reliable DNA samples from the blood.
“Some missing persons may have been buried without being identified in the first days after the earthquakes. If there is a suspicion of this, the grave must be opened and a test must be done and this is a more difficult process,” he said.
The forensic specialist stated that they would report their evaluations in the region and present them to the authorised parties.