NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 17 – DNA experts announced on Wednesday that they had identified 18 bodies of people who died at the Nakumatt Downtown Supermarket fire.
Chief Government Pathologist Dr Moses Njue said the remaining eleven were decomposed and could not yield any results and would have to undergo a second level of DNA testing at a cost of Sh2.5 million.
The DNA tests were conducted on 29 charred remains that were collected from the rubble of the supermarket which caught fire in January 28.
The bodies were burnt beyond recognition and could not be conclusively identified by relatives who turned up at the City mortuary.
“That is why DNA tests had to be conducted to enable family members identify their kin,” Dr Njue said.
DNA experts from Biotech Forensics collected samples by buccal swabs from 42 relatives of the 29 deceased persons on February 4.
“Of these 29 remains, 18 have been identified by DNA. We have 11 samples that were badly disintegrated or what we may call degraded that the first phase of DNA could not avail any results even when ran through the machines thrice,” he said.
Experts said many of the bodies were charred, amputated, fragmented and decomposed.
“Even though these body parts were kept under refrigeration, a sample may be degraded when it begins to decompose and also when it is exposed to elements such as fire, water, air, gases, acrid fumes and chemicals and this was the environment at Nakumatt,” he said.
Dr Njue said he had recommended that the remaining 11 body remains undergo the second level DNA (Mitochondrial) which would make results available after 10 weeks.
“This is an expensive exercise. The experts say they will require two weeks to procure and import Mitochondrial DNA kit and six to eight weeks for processing of samples,” he said.
Families were allowed to collect bodies that had been positively identified for burial starting on Wednesday.
Dr Njue said the government would hold consultations with families of those whose body remains had not been identified and the management of Nakumatt Holdings to discuss the issue of funding.
“We do not know who is going to fund this second DNA exercise. There has to be discussions to agree on some of those issues because it is an expensive exercise,” he said.
The first level DNA tests were conducted under funding from Nakumatt Holdings which commissioned the exercise.