'No degradation of 51 bodies kept in cooler'

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

THE Ministry of Health criticised Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin's "insensitive" and "reckless" claims that the bodies of Hurricane Dorian victims in Abaco are creating a "stench" because the container in which they are stored is not cooling adequately.

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ENGLERSTON MP Glenys Hanna Martin.

The Ministry of Health, in a statement, criticised Mrs Hanna Martin for her "baseless and inaccurate" remarks, asserting that claims of a stench, or "fresh or old remnants of bodily fluids at or around the container" are "pathetic falsifications" that have recently been refuted by government officials.

The ministry further stated that rumours have also been spread about "unusually large populations of flies attracted to the trailer," allegations it also refuted.

The ministry admitted that there are remains of 51 people currently being stored in a refrigerated cooler hooked up to the Marsh Harbour Clinic's electrical breaker. However, said the ministry, to date there have been no power losses and no "degradation of the remains which are stored".

The ministry also said such "false claims", which it asserts were also contained in a "widely circulated video" on social media, merely add to the "pain and suffering" of Abaco residents. Without calling names, it said "at least one of the persons" spreading these rumours "should know better and seek confirmation before affirming misinformation".

However, Mrs Hanna Martin, in a statement yesterday afternoon, said the government's statement is merely "confirmation" of her claims, as she said the revelation of the 51 bodies "surpasses" the number she previously thought to be in that container.

The Englerston MP also said that the ministry's "minute certification" of the "continuity and reliability" of the electrical supply to the container is "laughable and strains credibility as all of us who rely upon (Bahamas Power and Light) can attest".

On Friday, Mrs Hanna Martin called for the "dignified and respectful" removal of bodies which were stored after Hurricane Dorian. At the time, she claimed that due to the untimely refueling of the container's refrigeration unit, the bodies contained therein "de-iced" before the before the refrigeration was restored, leading to "degeneration and stench".

Additionally, Mrs Hanna Martin claimed that the container is not secured with a lock. "This grotesque situation playing out in the life of Abaconians is almost unspeakable and not consistent with our values as a Bahamian people," Mrs Hanna Martin said at the time.

In response, however, the ministry said that the "claim of a stench, fresh or old remnants of bodily fluids at or around the trailer" and suggestion that there are unusually large populations of flies attracted to the trailer are pathetic falsifications that were refuted by direct inspection of its clinic by Administrator Kyron Darville and Administrator of Community Health Charlene Bain on Friday.

"The refrigerated cooler has been wired into the electrical breaker of the Marsh Harbour Clinic for months," the ministry's statement explained. "The clinic has been on the re-energised grid since November 2019. It has a functioning back-up generator which is serviced monthly. A lock was placed and maintained in place for more than two months. There are security officers on the premises.

"Since restoration of municipal power to the clinic, BPL has functioned at better than 90 percent efficiency. Except for the few seconds for sensing by the automatic transfer switch prior to generator start, there have been no power losses to the trailer and no degradation of the remains which are stored. Indeed, there is further redundancy. In the event of a catastrophic failure, the 40-foot unit also has a back-up generator which could power the container if needed."

The Ministry of Health added: "The locked cooler is currently at minus eight to minus 10 degrees. We have carefully selected and maintained the cooler temperature to avoid any further degradation of bodies that were all collected in a state of decomposition. The integrity of the remains has been verified by our pathology team as late as Friday. To date, of the 55 Dorian-related deaths recovered in Abaco, the remains of four persons have been identified and released. Upon completion of all efforts to ensure identification, all the victims will be buried with dignity.

"The people of Abaco have suffered tremendously. These insensitive and reckless false claims add to their pain and suffering. At least one of the persons should know better and seek confirmation before affirming misinformation."

In response to the ministry's assertions, Mrs Hanna Martin said it is "ironic" that the ministry would refer to "the suffering experienced by the people of Abaco" in a bid to "chastise" her, while Health Minister Dr Duane Sands "appears to have no sense of urgency in addressing the scores of bodies stored in that refrigerated container".

"(Dr Sands) must know that this state of affairs is a constant gruesome reminder to the people of Abaco and no doubt exacerbates their suffering," Mrs Hanna Martin said. "The minister should be aware that the facts I provided are from a source that I trust, despite his official stance.

"This is yet another example of this administration straining the truth to avert transparency in a public relations exercise."

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