The Zimbabwe government has declared missing victims of tropical Cyclone Idai dead ahead of an exhumation of bodies that were swept to Mozambique and subsequent burial in the country.
Speaking during a post cabinet press briefing in Harare yesterday, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said various government departments were set to carry out the exhumations.
“The nation is being informed that following a Cabinet decision to exhume bodies of victims of Cyclone Idai that were swept to Mozambique through the Rusitu River, a team comprising pathologists, the Zimbabwe Republic Police forensic officials, the Zimbabwe National Army and the Civil Registry was set up to carry out the exhumations.
“The team, assisted by the Zimbabwean Ambassador to Mozambique Ambassador Matematanda, held consultations with Mozambican officials and traditional leadership before carrying out a total of 31 exhumations. The Traditional Leadership and the grave diggers were paid tokens of appreciation for assisting in the burial of the victims. An arrangement was made with Chimoio Provincial Hospital for the storage of the remains of the victims,” Mutsvangwa said.
She said reference samples for DNA tests had already been taken from families who lost their loved ones during the natural disaster and that the Cabinet had resolved to declare missing persons dead.
“DNA tests will be carried out in Zimbabwe by the National University of Science and Technology’s Applied Genetic Testing Centre in collaboration with the AiBST Laboratory. The two laboratories have already collected reference samples from the families who lost their loved ones during the disaster. Government has made arrangements for the remains to be transported and stored in Zimbabwe prior to the release of DNA results.
“The nation is further advised that Cabinet resolved as follows: to declare the missing persons dead so as to facilitate acquisition of the relevant documentation at the Civil Registry Department and the subsequent registration of the deceased persons estates; that all positively identified remains be conveyed to Mutare General Hospital in order to reduce costs for the grieving families; that a mopping-up exercise be undertaken to identify burial sites and conduct exhumations on the other side of the Rusitu River; and that State-assisted burials be provided to the bereaved families,” she said.