Christchurch: Authorities here on Sunday initiated identification procedures of the bodies of last week’s terror attack victims so that their families can claim them for their burial.
CNN quoted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as saying that the authorities had started returning identified bodies to their families. All bodies will be returned to their respective families by Wednesday, she added.
Six disaster victim identification experts from Australia are also assisting the identification procedures, she added.
In addition, New Zealand police described the identification process as “detailed and complex work” that must be completed thoroughly.
“It’s vital we have certainty around the cause of death for any future court proceedings,” Detective Superintendent Peter Read said.
In the worst ever terror attack in New Zealand, the 28-year-old gunman, named Brenton Harrison Tarrant, carried out the Friday’s attacks at Linwood Mosque and Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch killing 50 people and injuring 49 others, who are being treated in the Christchurch hospital and Auckland’s Starship Hospital.
Tarrant, who appeared before a Christchurch court on murder charges on Saturday, was remanded in custody without plea until April 5.
The terror attack suspect, who live-streamed for about 17 minutes his rampage through two mosques in the city, is an Australian-born citizen and is a resident of Dunedin, situated around 360 km south of Christchurch.
Speaking at the same press conference, deputy police chief Wally Haumaha said that authorities are working closely with Imams (Islamic clerics) and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.
“We acknowledge that the last 48 hours have been the most horrific in these families’ lives. We understand it is an added trauma for them that they have not been able to bury their loved ones quickly, according to their religious duty,” said Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha.
“This is an unprecedented event and the support of the Muslim leaders and their community has been invaluable,” Haumaha added.
Meanwhile, the names of the victims were not made public but a preliminary list has been shared with families, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed on Sunday.
Condemning the terror strike, New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern had described the attack as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and said it “appears to have been well planned.” She asserted that the country “will not and cannot be shaken” by the attack.