The body of a Swedish woman killed in last year's tsunami was exhumedfrom a Muslim graveyard in a southern coastal town after authorities discovered a case of mistaken identity, an official said on Wednesday.
The body of the 49-year-old woman was removed from the grave in Krabi province in July, and is being kept at Maruan cemetery in neighboring Phang Nga province, awaiting repatriation by her family, said Police Col. Khemarin Hassaisiri, head of the National Police Office's Disaster Victim Identification Unit.
The body had been taken from a makeshift morgue on Jan. 27 by relatives of a Thai Muslim woman who had died in the tsunami. They believed she was their relative, based on her shirt and an appendectomy scar. Before she was buried, disaster victim identification authorities recorded the victim's dental records and fingerprints, Khemarin said.
A few months later, authorities matched the records with those of a Swedish victim.
"In April, the DVI information matched the dental records and fingerprints of this body with the code number PP593 with this Swedish woman," Khemarin said by telephone from Phuket.
A spokesman for the Swedish police in Phuket confirmed that the body had been identified, but could not immediately provide any further details.
Khemarin said the DVI center found that the body had been released Jan. 27, and tracked it down to the Muslim graveyard in Krabi. "Luckily the body was given to Muslim family who buried her," Khemarin said. "If the body had been given to a Buddhist family (who would have cremated it), they may only have been able to retrieve small pieces of bones which would have made it more difficult for the DVI team to use scientific methods to identify the body."
The bodies of most tsunami victims were submerged in saltwater and exposed to tropical sun, and decomposed heavily within days, making visual identification very difficult, reports the AP. I.L.