By Ononye VC

It was double tragedy for both the living and the dead as more than 400 corpses awaiting burial by their loved ones were burnt beyond recognition in a sudden bush fire at the Onitsha General hospital mortuary last Friday.It was a gory sight as charred remains of corpses piled like smoked fish inside and outside the small warehouse said to be the mortuary.I visited the mortuary myself today, Monday,24th January and was shocked that since Friday when the incident occured,there was no measure by the hospital or government authority to evacuate the bodies or cordon off the place to cover the unsightly view.A hospital staff who was saddened by the incident expressed surprise that since Friday when it happened, government authorities did not come around to assess the situation and decide the way to go.I went round the miserable mortuary and saw cloths turned into rags littered all over the place.Already,the burnt corpses had started oozing out offensive odour.Relatives of the deceased who rushed to the mortuary to sort out bodies of their loved ones ran into confusion as to what to do.Some of them who retrieved some corpses were said not to be too sure of whose body they carted away since there was no DNA test to confirm.The hospital official told me that the fire came as a result of bush burning in the hospital premises.He was of the opinion that the fire was aggravated by perhaps,the chemical used for preservation of the corpses which is said to be highly inflammable.The official said that though a fire truck arrived the venue but that it was late.He blamed the state government and management of the hospital for failing to erect a fence wall round the small but overcrowded mortuary such that corpses which littered the space were embalmed in the open to the chagrin and consternation of patients and other passersby within the hospital compound.

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