Katrina Deaths: 49 still unidentified

Almost a year after the storm, and there are still bodies that are not identified. A cold reminder, of how much damage was done to life, property, and the psych of everyone along the Gulf Coast. Images will be forever etched into our minds.

Mystery: 49 of Lousiana’s hurricane dead lie unidentified
They lie in silvery airtight caskets in a rented warehouse near the Superdome or in black body bags stacked in a refrigerated truck behind an abandoned funeral-home-turned-morgue.

Nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina, 49 of the storm’s 1,300-plus victims in Louisiana are stuck in a kind of purgatory, with no final resting place, because their identities are still a mystery.

The anonymous souls died undignified deaths, their bodies left in muddy water for days or buried in rubble for months. Many died in the flood-leveled Ninth Ward.

Not much else is known about them. Many had no clothing or ID, and their bodies were bloated from exposure or reduced to skeletons before medical examiners could begin looking for clues.

The nameless dead wait for medical records, dental charts or DNA analysis — anything that might tell the world who they are.

“We’re not going to give up,” said Dr. Louis Cataldie, Louisiana medical examiner. Cataldie said authorities will keep trying until they have exhausted all possibilities; New Orleans Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard has set no deadline on the task.

Altogether, local, state and federal officials identified more than 1,300 people found dead in Louisiana after Katrina struck on Aug. 29. (The official Louisiana death toll is close to 1,600, but the number includes nearly 300 who died outside the state shortly after fleeing the storm.)

The nameless dead include 24 victims whose bodies were found in sweeps done by New Orleans firefighters and cadaver dogs from March through June. Minyard said those remains, now housed in a trailer behind a funeral home converted to the city morgue, were reduced to skeletons by the time they were discovered.

The 25 others were among the 206 turned over to local authorities in April by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Those bodies are in a warehouse along a freeway.

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