This is a gruesome topic, but what are we going to do with the dead? This WaPo piece suggests we will store them in morgues, but I think the length of the flood is going to create a situation where identification of a lot of bodies is going to be difficult if not impossible.
And this isn’t even taking into account the bloating and health problems. Are we going to reach a point where we may have to resort to mass burials, or is there a possibility the morgues can handle this?
NPR had a report this morning that the small town of St Bernard has a temporary morgue set up where bodies will be processed and preliminary attempts at identification will be made. Dental castings/examinations and samples for DNA testing will be taken. They’re hoping to process as many as 150 bodies a day there. I’m sure this won’t be the only such location required.
I hope there’s a special reward awaiting the good people who can do this sort of work.
If they have to go with mass graves, they should at least take DNA so people can know which mass graves their loved ones are placed in, if any.
And FEMA is turning away morticians from around the country who are volunteering to come to the Gulf Coast to help, because they are not FEMA certified.
I know that these sorts of rules are set up for a reason, to keep out unqualified people and such, but there comes a time when you just have to put them aside.
Well, the government already has a policy that seems appropriate here.
If the deaths are embarassing and upsetting, we should make sure that no photographs are taken of the dead. That’s what we did with Iraq fatalities, isn’t it?
That way, politicians remain free to make those self-referential speeches about how deeply they feel the pain, and what a good job they are doing of taking care of us … even to the point of “protecting” us from any feelings we might accidentally experience if we were to see the dead.
What good is a daddy government if it doesn’t shield our eyes from death? Especially, deaths it may have caused (for our own good, of course).
I recall that Arlington was built on the front steps of Robert E. Lee’s property.
I recommend we do the same with Mike Brown’s ranchland.
identification of a lot of bodies is going to be difficult if not impossible.
It seems like dental records and DNA would still be applicable here. I am still astounded at the efforts and success identifying 9/11 victims. This sounds more gruesome to me, but do-able.
Ugh. I’m with Jim, this is a tough task, and those that perform it deserve recognition along with all the other “heroes.”
I guess each state should find a spot to make a memorial, asap. Wouldn’t that please the feds?
Is mass cremation an option? I know some (many?) have objections to reducing the corpses to ashes, but under the circumstances, that strikes me as the most practical solution.
As gruesome as this may sound, it sounds like a lot of bodies are still trapped in their homes, so in terms of identification, this may ease some of that…some silver lining, huh?
Sure, sure, it did. It had nothing to do with that silly federal law signed about 15 years ago.
This is the thought I had, too. As morbid as it may be to say so, I really don’t think the morgues can handle all of the bodies, so we need to look at other avenues as well. Ugh.
Thank heavens there’s a law!
Now if we can just get a law to protect sanctity!
We can call it the Sanctity of Sanctity Act. Under this act, the government identifies the sacrosanct things, and instructs us how to protect their sanctity.
The sanctity of life requires that we do not gaze upon death. So, that would be forbidden. Unless it is deemed politically advantageous, and then the prohibition could be waived. Whatever is for the greater good.
Another fun little problem is that in New Orleans, you can’t just stick bodies in mass-graves; remember, the city’s famous cemetaries all have to feature aboveground coffins, because they’ll just bubble their way back to the surface if they are buried.
I may be unrealistic about this, but what sort of evidence did the mayor of NO rely on when he said to expect 10,000 deaths?
If there were that many dead, wouldn’t we have seen some pictures or news reports of large numbers of bodies (hundreds, not ones and two’s)?
If there were 10,000, I would expect more people clamoring to return and find loved ones, more letters or emails to authorities pointing to particular apartements or houses for searches.
I suppose the theory is that we will find thousands died in their attics. Seems possible, depending on how high the water rose, how quickly, and what the outside conditions were.
One story with an attic – how many ended up trapped as opposed to climbing out on the roof? I suppose some could be able to get into the attic but then not able to get out the way they came or through some other exit. But if that happened hundreds of times, I would think we would have some evidence by now.
Apartment buildings over one story would seem to have provided protection from 18 feet of flood water, at least on the second floor and above.
I doubt that there was any house by house survey, or even an extrapolation from a search of say 100 or 200 houses.
Wilson, it isn’t just the Mayor saying it…
I believe that LSU has a program that extrapolated that death toll based on the information.
Also, WE aren’t seeing the bodies, but the reportewrs have talked about them, and I have to tell you, watching the BBC, I DID see bodies.
Listening to rescue workers talking about walking into houses where they are finding 9 people dead, and not even in water should be the telling little signs to me that it could indeed be this bad. It is the thing that was done down there to keeping climbing as the water rises, as well, because that’s what they always did. This time the water went higher than ever before. The real, awful trgedy for me are the people who are or were literally up to their necks in water trapped in their attics waiting for help to they succumbed to exhaustion. All those one story houses underwater…
But I am hoping and praying that th projection is way, way off…
I too hope the death toll is off. I recall the 9/11 death estimates being off by about a factor of 10. But, I think Rudy Giuliani got it right when asked how many he thought were dead back then. “More than we can bear.” Pretty much the same goes here.
Stack them up on the Whate House lawn.
whoops – Whate=White
B. Minich, PI
I think we should do something similar to what Johnstown, PA did in 1889.
The great Johnstown flood left over 2,200 dead. The reasons had to do with man’s failings along with nature’s fury (undermaintained man made dam breaks, sending too much water in the Conemaugh valley. More here.) The victims who could not be identified (I believe there were around 500) were buried in a special cemetery just for them. This is probably the best course of action for New Orleans, with this exception: we didn’t have the technology in 1889 to identify anyone who didn’t have someone come forward at the morgue, or who was decomposed so badly that no one could recognize them. Now, we can take medical records and DNA. I think we should do that – get a good X-ray for dental records, and take some DNA. Carefully catalogue it, making sure that sample numbers can be quickly matched with grave numbers. Then, as familes return and try to find loved ones, they can get closure, and another tombstone can be changed from a number to a name.
This would also serve as a good memorial to the victims of the hurricane. The biggest issue would be building the cemetery, seeing as how New Orleans needs to bury their dead above ground, which would make it more difficult to build a lot of graves in a short time.