Identifying the dead a painstaking task

A woman writes a message on the ground with chalk on March 24, 2016 outside the Maelbeek.
A woman writes a message on the ground with chalk on March 24, 2016 outside the Maelbeek.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS • The search has grown increasingly desperate for those still missing after the Brussels attacks as families cling to fading hopes of hearing good news.

The attacks at Brussels Airport and at a metro station in the Belgian capital killed 31 people and injured 300, 61 of whom were in critical condition and in intensive care.

Officers from the Belgian federal police's disaster victim identification team were working at the sites of both attacks, poring over the remains in a grisly process. The task of identifying the dead was painstakingly slow. Names were emerging only gradually, complicated by the violence of the explosions, police told RTBF television.

Making the grim work even tougher was that the dead and wounded came from around 40 countries.

A Facebook page where worried relatives, friends and colleagues can post notices of the missing has been set up. Pictures uploaded showed men and women, young and old, from Belgium and across the globe.

They have been shared thousands of times as people try to spread the word in the hope of finding out what happened to them.

"Have you seen this girl? Her name is Aline Bastin, Belgian, 29 years old. She was most probably on the metro," read one."We are desperately looking for her - should you have any news, please give a sign!"

Mr Chandrasekar Ganesan was looking for his brother.

"I have talked with people from the Indian Embassy in Brussels and they told me that they are searching for him. They have also looked into many hospitals it seems but still there is no word of him," he wrote. "Any leads would be really helpful."

New York siblings Sascha and Alexander Pinczowski were at the airport. A Dutch newspaper said they were on the telephone to a relative when the bombs went off and the line went dead. There has been no news of them since.

Mr David Dixon, 51, a British computer programmer living in Brussels, sent his aunt a text message after the airport blasts to say that he was safe. But his family now fear he was caught up in the metro attack, said media reports.

One missing notice for a man who was at the airport said: "We are still looking for Andre Adam. His wife has been found, she's at hospital but we have no news about him."

A young German couple who were married last year and headed for a New York holiday were waiting at the American Airlines check-in counter when the suicide bombers struck, Germany's Bild daily said. The woman, identified as Jennifer, 29, a sales employee, is missing, and her husband Lars, 30, a hospital nurse, is in a coma.

So far, only three fatalities have been named. The first was Ms Adelma Marina Tapia Ruiz, 37, born in Peru and killed in the airport blasts. Her twin three-year-old daughters and husband survived.

The other two were civil servant Olivier Delespesse and Belgian law student Leopold Hecht, both killed in the metro attack.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Identifying the dead a painstaking task'. Print Edition | Subscribe