Instead of Remains, Ethiopia Gives Families Scorched Earth

Remains are proving exceptionally hard, if not impossible, to identify
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 17, 2019 9:07 AM CDT
Instead of Ethiopian Victims' Remains, Families Get ... Dirt
An Ethiopian relative of a crash victim throws dirt in her own face after realizing that there is nothing physical left of her loved one, as she mourns at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 157 on board, in Ethiopia, Thursday, March 14, 2019.   (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

Grieving family members of victims of the Ethiopian air disaster are being given sacks of earth to bury in place of the remains of their loved ones. Officials have begun delivering bags of earth to family members of the 157 victims of the crash instead of the remains of their loved ones because the identification process is going to take such a long time. Families are being given a 2.2-pound sack of scorched earth taken from the crash site, members of two different families told the AP. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid government reprisal. An Ethiopian government official also confirmed the deliveries of soil. "The soil came as it became impossible to identify bodies and hand over remains to family members," one family member said. "We will not rest until we are given the real body or body parts of our loved ones."

Forensic DNA work has begun on identifying the remains but it may take six months to identify the victims, because the body parts are in small pieces. However, authorities say they will issue death certificates within two weeks. A mass memorial service is planned in Addis Ababa on Sunday, one week after the crash. Muslim families have already held prayers for the dead and are anxious to have something to bury as soon as possible. Interpol and Blake Emergency Services, hired by Ethiopian Airlines, will work with Ethiopian police and health officials to identify the bodies, Dagmawit Moges, Ethiopia's Minister of Transport, said on Saturday. "Preparation for the identification process has already started and we will make sure that the post mortem investigation will start as soon as possible," she said. In Paris, investigators started studying the voice recorder of the crashed jet Saturday.

(Read more Ethiopian Airlines stories.)

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