Decade After Tsunami, Bodies Still Unidentified

Most of the 369 thought to be Burmese
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2014 10:41 AM CST
Decade After Tsunami, 369 Unknown Victims Sit Unclaimed
In this Dec. 28, 2004 file photo, a rescue and clean-up crew survey sa flooded lobby at the Seapearl Beach Hotel along Patong Beach on Phuket Island, Thailand.   (AP Photo/ CP, Deddeda Stemler, File)

This week marks a decade since the tsunami that claimed some 226,000 lives in 14 countries on Dec. 26, 2004. But even now, questions remain about its toll: Almost 400 bodies, for instance, are in numbered coffins in Thailand, and 369 of them haven't even been identified, Reuters reports—even after what's considered a heroic effort by the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification unit. The coffins are now in the a village cemetery near the district of Takua Pa, in the country's south. Police there recently opened a cargo container that had been closed since 2011; it contained a range of valuables including jewelry and $1,800 in cash.

"I think back then everyone was so busy focusing on identifying the corpses they may have forgotten about this," an officer says of the findings. Most of the unclaimed bodies are thought to be the remains of Burmese people, and only 26 have been identified. But to come collect them would cost their families "a decade of life savings," a forensic police officer notes. About 2,000 Burmese migrants are thought to have died in the disaster, but media focused on foreign tourists and Thai losses, AFP reports. Others remain missing. "We provided all of the information—dental records, tissue, and DNA samples ... but they still can't find her," says a Thai villager of his daughter. (More Thailand stories.)

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