We Still Have No Idea Who 30 Katrina Victims Are

Money allocated by FEMA to help identify bodies has dried up
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2015 5:21 AM CDT
This Aug. 12, 2015, photo shows burial crypts at the Hurricane Katrina Memorial in New Orleans. Thousands died in the storm, and dozens of un-IDed and unclaimed bodies are entombed in the memorial.   (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
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(Newser) – Cleaning up after a massive hurricane is a difficult affair, but a decade after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and claimed what Live Science reports is an estimated 1,833 lives, 30 bodies have yet to be identified. WWL-TV arrived at that number after making a public records request to the current coroner, who did not agree to be interviewed. The data comes from autopsy reports—reports that contain only a few identifying details, like the location of the body and what it was clad in or carried. One unknown black male wore black Nike tennis shoes and a black necklace with a wooden African pendant. An unknown female was wearing a yellow metal earring with the letters "RMJ" on it and a single curler in her hair.

State health officials say the department spent more than $3 million trying to reunite families with the remains of the dead; the federal government ended up covering only $2.2 million of that, and there's no more money for further testing, says Dr. Louis Cataldie, who helmed the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team that helped ID the bodies. The condition of the bodies rendered fingerprints largely "useless," and so "we would take DNA from family members and relatives and try and match the family tree," he says of his work. "That's real hard to do when you've got people displaced to Texas and you're trying to get their DNA." Former Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard's take: "It's ludicrous in this day and age to have people unidentified." (Ten years on, these are 10 standout reads about Katrina.)

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