DNA profiling to take more time
DNA profiling of the 291 unidentified bodies recovered from under the Rana Plaza rubble may take more than three months.
This is because the number of DNA samples collected from the unclaimed bodies and the relatives of those missing is much higher than the lab handles in a year, said Prof Dr Sharif Akhteruzzaman, chief of the DNA profiling lab at Dhaka Medical College (DMC).
"As of Monday, we have bone and tooth samples of 321 highly decomposed bodies and blood samples of 520 family members of the missing people," he added.
All the unidentified bodies have been buried at Jurain graveyard.
"Relatives of missing people are still coming in to provide blood samples. It is not possible to analyse and compare such a massive amount of data manually," he added.
On the other hand, many relatives who gave their blood samples during the rescue operation but later found the bodies of their loved ones did not report to the National Forensic DNA Profiling Lab at the DMC.
So the samples collected from the relatives exceed the number of samples collected from the unidentified bodies.
The software the laboratory now uses can only handle small-scale profiling work aimed at helping criminal investigations or parental identification.
This software, however, was used to identify the Tazreen Fashions fire victims in November last year, and it took two months to complete the DNA profiling of 53 bodies.
But analysing a large number of samples requires a software application named Mass Fatality Identification System, also known as M-FISys.
This software was used to identify those missing in the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US and the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, said Akhteruzzaman.
A proposal to buy the TK 1-crore software was recently sent to the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs, but it will take some time before it is approved.
The DMC lab authorities have already brought in additional staff from regional offices to handle the workload.
DNA analysis of a bone or tooth sample takes two to three weeks, said Akhteruzzaman, adding that it might take at least three months to complete analyses of all the samples.
How much time the comparison and matching of the samples will take can be determined once the M-FISys software is available, he said.
But Rihat, who lost his mother, Asha, in the April 24 tragedy that claimed at least 1,127 lives, still cries for her. The two-year-old was brought to the DMC lab to have his blood sample taken.
"Asha will never come back, but we could at least identify her grave after the DNA test," Motaleb, Asha's father-in-law, told The Daily Star at the DMC.