Sunday | March 1, 2015

Morgues almost full

Published:Thursday | May 27, 2010
Ann Marie Johnson cries a block away from the city morgue on Wednesday after receiving news that her cousin's son, who was a soldier, was killed by gang members during military operations in Kingston. - AP

Laura Redpath, Senior Staff Reporter

Mounting casualties from the massive offensive by the security forces on Tivoli Gardens have put morgues on the brink of overflowing.

Ferdinand Madden, chief executive of Madden's Funeral Supplies and Crematorium, told The Gleaner yesterday evening that his North Street morgue could only accommodate approximately 10 more bodies. An unidentified East Street funeral parlour, which is working in conjunction with Madden's, could only accept another eight bodies, he said.

"I am appealing to have post-mortems done urgently," Madden said of bodies linked to clashes outside the west Kingston green zone, which have compounded the problem.

However, Karl Angell, the media point man of the Constabulary Communication Network (CCN), insisted that morgues would not be overwhelmed by the body count.

"In terms of the morgues and their ability to cope," Angell said, "they have been coping fairly well."

Angell, along with Information Minister Daryl Vaz, was addressing a late-afternoon press conference yesterday.

Jamaica's Customs Department fast-tracked delivery of a container late yesterday to ease the pile-up.

The official body count remained at 44 up until press time yesterday, but there were unconfirmed reports of dozens more fatalities. More than 40 persons have been injured. And at least 260 persons have been detained.

The violence was sparked by an incursion by the police and army in their bid to arrest accused crime boss Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who is wanted by the United States on drug-trafficking and gunrunning charges.

Angell blunted attempts by journalists who have been engaged in tooth-pulling efforts to get information from the war zone. Word from the field only started trickling in on Tuesday.

The CCN spokesman refused to answer questions about the whereabouts of Coke, but The Gleaner has learnt that an islandwide manhunt has been launched. The police searched Coke's Plantation Heights home in upper St Andrew and also a residence at 2 North in Portmore, St Catherine.

Angell also said he could not comment in detail on the operation, hinting that doing so might compromise security sensitivities.

"These matters are usually investigated afterwards, and an inquiry is usually done," Angell.

Sporadic gunfights continued yesterday in a few sections of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town, as thugs loyal to Coke led a determined but withering resistance.

Meanwhile, there were no violent clashes in the general downtown business district as storeowners ventured there to view stores, many of which had been looted during the civil unrest. Shoppers stayed away but a few market vendors tried to sell produce which had been abandoned at the weekend.

The central bank and other institutions, such as the finance ministry, remained closed yesterday.

laura.redpath@gleanerjm.com