BAHANAGA: At a makeshift morgue in an Indian school, a couple scanned photos of disfigured corpses before leaning in for a closer look at one they think is their 22-year-old son.
A pendant around his wounded neck provided the terrible confirmation.
The mother held back tears and leaned gently on her husband's shoulder for a few seconds, before looking away from the laptop of an official trying to identify the dead after India's worst train disaster in decades.
People have come to the Bahanaga High School, less than a kilometre from the crash site near Balasore, in the eastern state of Odisha, since Friday's horrific three-train collision.
At least 288 people were killed and hundreds more injured.
Some train carriages were flipped over, others were torn open with the force of the impact.
“The dead bodies that came here were already in a very bad state,“ said Arvind Agarwal, the official in charge of the makeshift morgue. The searing heat has “further disfigured” many of them, he said.
“The biggest challenge is the identification,“ Agarwal said, sitting in the school headmaster’s office.
Volunteer Siddharth Jena, 23, sat next to him with a laptop that has numbered pictures of every body recovered and sent to the school since Friday night.
- Corridors lined with corpses -
The stench of rotting flesh hung in the air around the school.
Dozens of people sat outside its gates hoping to find their missing relatives.
Once a family has identified their relative from photos, they are given a receipt that allows them to view the body. But it has been far from simple.
“We received 179 bodies here, but only 45 of them could be identified,“ said Ranajit Nayak, the police officer in charge of releasing the bodies.
Bodies in white bags tagged “identified” or “unidentified” lined both sides of the blood-stained corridor late on Saturday, with others stored in classrooms.
“There were bodies with only a torso, an entirely burnt face, disfigured skull and no other visible identity markers left,“ Nayak said.
“Did you expect that this identification would be easy for anyone?”
Work began late on Saturday to move unidentified bodies to a centre with better facilities to preserve the bodies for relatives travelling longer distances.
Unidentified corpses will then be moved to permanent city morgues.
For some, like Abhijit Chakrabarty, 27, from neighbouring West Bengal state, the wait was over. He saw a photograph with a bracelet worn by his missing 25-year-old brother-in-law Subhashish.
But others continued their desperate search. Agarwal, the official at the school, warned that some families might have to take DNA tests to provide matches.
Noor Jamal Mondon, 38, from Bardhaman district in West Bengal, has heard nothing from his missing brother Yaad Ali, 35.
“We’ve checked all the hospitals and the crash site throughout the day,“ said Mondon, an imam at a mosque. “We are now looking at the dead bodies at the morgue once again.” -AFP