Distraught families struggle with grief and paperwork to take the deceased home
After going through a series of photographs of the dead on a person’s phone, Noorjahan had identified them on Sunday evening.Updated: Dec 10, 2019 05:57 IST
On Monday, sisters Noorjahan and Fuljadi waited outside the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) mortuary to claim the bodies of their father Ainul and their son-in-law Abbas.
After going through a series of photographs of the dead on a person’s phone, Noorjahan had identified them on Sunday evening.
“But today when I went in with my Aadhar card, I was asked to come back with my brother or mother and Abbas’ wife. How will they come here? My brother is in Bangalore and dies not want to come, even if he does it will take him more than two days. My mother is very old and cannot travel. And, Abbas’ wife is pregnant. I don’t know what to do,” said Noorjahan.
None of Noorjahan and Fuljadi’s ID cards could establish that they were Ainul’s daughters. None of the family members had and ID establishing a relation with Abbas, hence the hospital did not release the body.
The scene outside the mortuary was chaotic with neighbours and extended family member along with close relatives scrambling to get the paperwork in place.
Shabnam who was also one of those from Haripur, said that she was disappointed on not being allowed to claim her cousin’s body. “His parents are shocked right now and we had told them to stay back in the village. My mother and an uncle have gone inside the mortuary to convince the authorities to let us claim the body,” she said.
Hospital authorities, however, had made it clear that bodies will not be released without identification by blood relatives, leaving several claimants of the bodies waiting for hours outside the hospital gates.
On Monday, Muhammad Mukhtar Alam was camped outside the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) mortuary to identify two of his uncle’s sons, Muhammad Ayub (35) and Muhammad Jahir (32).
The brothers had come to the city in search of work and better pay, and had been working at the factory every summer for the past six years. They were to return home with three of their nephews, who were working in the same factory, on Monday as the winter jacket-manufacturing season had come to a close. They used to earn around ₹50 per jacket.
Mohammed Iqbal, the father of the dead brothers, boarded a train to Delhi on Monday morning after the villagers pooled money for his travel after they heard about the tragedy.
“His wife is not speaking at all now. What can she say? She just lost two young sons,” said Alam. “The wives of both the brothers are also hysterical, they have five very young children between them, the youngest one is just one-and-a-half year old.”
He keeps going back and forth to the burns ward in the hospital to check on the three nephews – Mumtaz who is mute, Asif, and Ansar. All of them suffered inhalation injuries.
“Mumtaz had just travelled to Delhi this year. His uncles had said he can at least make a decent living even if he could not talk,” said Alam.
The situation at Lady Hardinge and LNJP, the city hospitals tending to the injured and keeping the bodies from the Anaj Mandi fire incident, returned to normal on Monday morning, the only difference being relatives crowding outside the mortuaries waiting to claim the bodies. The disaster management authority was there to guide them.
Five bodies unclaimed on Sunday were identified by their relatives from villages in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on Monday. After the identification procedure was completed, doctors from forensic medicine conducted 17 autopsies in a day and released the bodies.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority had set up their helpline desks at Lok Nayak and Lady Hardinge hospitals to help families identify the victims. “Since morning we have received close to seven-10 people looking for their family members. We have a list of the details of all the injured and dead and are matching them with the information they are providing,” said Kavita Mehra, who was posted at the desk Lok Nayak hospital.
Two Delhi fire department personnel with inhalation injuries who were admitted at Lok Nayak hospital, were discharged on Sunday evening. One person with minor orthopaedic injury was discharged on Monday evening. Thirteen people with inhalation injuries are still admitted in the hospital – one of them is on a ventilator and one has 50% burns. One of the survivors on ventilator is yet to be identified.
Muhammad Aniul from Haripur was at Lady Hardinge to finish documentation of his uncle’s son, Muhammad Mehboob (18), and take his body back to his village, Haripur at Samastipur in Bihar. “Twelve people from our village have passed away in this fire. We are here to finish documentation and ensure that the bodies are transported safely,” said Aniul adding that about 200 people from Haripur who are currently working in small labour jobs are scattered across the three hospitals to take care of the dead from their village.
Muhammad Ayub, a resident of Seelampur said that he was at the hospital to claim the body of one of his friend’s son. “I do not know his name. His father was my friend in our village at Madhaypura (Bihar),” he said. “The moment we got to know that people from our village have been affected in the fire, we rushed to the hospital,” he added
The mortuary of Lady Hardinge Medical College was also unusually busy for a Monday morning, with seven out of nine bodies lined up for post-mortem. Of the seven identified bodies, six were from Bihar and one from Uttar Pradesh. By late evening autopsy of three bodies was conducted.