44 bodies identified; 50 still missing

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The death toll of the Aug. 16 sinking of the MV St. Thomas Aquinas reached 71 yesterday.

But only 26 recovered bodies were released to their families as of yesterday afternoon.

Kinfolk were able to complete the paperwork, such as presentation of birth or marriage certificates, said social worker Edna Regudo.

Other documents required for identification are barangay certificates and valid IDs of both the claimant and the dead.

On the fifth day of the search, rescue and retrieval operations, 69 bodies, one arm and one leg were recovered. A total of 45 cadavers have been identified.

Fifty persons remain missing.

The body parts recovered have not yet been determined to belong a single person, and have not been counted as recovered said Dr. Assuncion Anden, regional director of the Department of Health in Central Visayas.

DNA matching , which takes a month, will be used for those who can not be physically identified.

DNA samples of the cadaver and a close blood relative will be sent for cross matching by the laboratory of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame in Quezon City. /Christine Emily L. Pantaleon, Correspondent

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