Lone Baghdad mortuary unable to handle all of the civilian corpses

| Thu May 18, 2006 10:52 PM EDT

Baghdad has only one mortuary, and the staff there was able to release bodies in about five hours, prior to the war. Now, there is not only a dramatic increase in the number of dead bodies being brought to the morgue, the nature of their wounds is such that exams can take many hours or even days to complete. Dr. Fa'aq Ameen, director of the health ministry's Forensic Medicine Institute, also cites lack of storage space and a shortage of doctors as problems at the Baghdad mortuary.

Every day, an average of seventry Iraqi civilians are killed, mostly as a result of sectarian violence. The mortuary receives 1,500 bodies a month, not counting the bodies of those killed in areas north and south of the country. The morgue has storage space for 120 corpses, and unless more refrigeration units are installed, the threat of disease looms in the community. Some bodies are buried before the family can idetify them, then they must be exhumed and re-buried. There is no government agency that helps people find the bodies of the dead, and there are a lot of angry people who cannot locate the bodies of their loved ones.

This scenario is similar to the one that occurred in Louisiana after the two hurricanes hit the state in August and September. Angry families demanded the bodies of their loved ones, but an overworked temporary morgue staff had to do the best it could in examining and identifying corpses. The situation in Baghdad, however, is made worse every day, and with only one mortuary, there is no sign that it will improve.