Relatives in Sri Lanka endure grim screening to identify dead, Latest World News - The New Paper

Relatives in Sri Lanka endure grim screening to identify dead

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COLOMBO Some hid their eyes, some collapsed in tears as gruesome images of victims from Sri Lanka's Easter massacre were projected on to a screen in front of distraught relatives at a Colombo morgue yesterday.

The pictures of some of the 290 dead are disturbing, with faces battered and bodies missing limbs.

A Roman Catholic priest and a Buddhist counterpart waited in the corner of the courtyard to intervene when one of scores of people in the audience recognised a mother, brother or child.

Many of the dead from attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels have been taken to the government morgue and people queued in the heat to get into the heart-wrenching identification slideshow.

Eighteen bodies were released yesterday morning after relatives recognised a victim from the gruesome images shown in a corner of the morgue courtyard.

Mr Janaka Shaktivel, 28, father of an 18-month-old son, sat in shock outside the building waiting for the body of his wife to be handed over.

The storeowner's wife died when a suicide bomber hit St Anthony's Shrine, one of Colombo's most famous churches.

Pale and grief-stricken, Mr Shaktivel said he remembered lighting candles with his wife and baby.

He said: "My baby started crying, I took him outside and my wife stayed inside.

"I was just at the door when I heard an ear-splitting sound. I rushed inside but there were unbelievable scenes. I frantically looked for my wife but couldn't find her."

He went on a grim tour of Colombo hospitals and finally to the morgue, where he was one of many to be called up to see the images and then inspect a body.

"I recognised her body from the wedding ring that she always wore," he said.

With its capital under curfew, Sri Lanka is filled with fear, horror and grief and tourists who have been flocking to the island could cancel in droves.

A tweet posted on the travel booking website First Choice captured the trepidation among holidaymakers, while some airlines and travel agents said they would waive cancellation charges for people scheduled to travel imminently.- AFP, REUTERS