Handling Mass Fatalities

Millersville University Research Team Heads Back to Gulf Coast

Apr 03, 2006, 01:00 ET from Millersville University

    MILLERSVILLE, Pa., April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- How the bodies of the dead were
 handled after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast last August will be the
 topic of research conducted by Dr. Henry W. Fischer III, director of the
 Center for Disaster Research and Education (CDRE) at Millersville University
 of Pennsylvania.  Fischer received a $13,400 follow-up grant from the National
 Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct the research.  His team will be in
 Louisiana and Mississippi April 23-29, 2006.
     "They continue to find bodies in the region," said Fischer. "When our team
 was in the Gulf Coast in October, the forensics people were overwhelmed.
 They're happy that we're coming back now."
     Fischer, along with Dr. Kathryn Gregoire, MU social work professor and
 CDRE research associate, and two MU students, Lynn Letukas and Joe Mellon,
 traveled to the Gulf Coast in October to help the emergency responders
 document what went well in their view, and what will be amended for the
 future.  That same team will be responding this month to see how the mass
 fatalities were handled and continue to be handled.
     This builds on Fischer's work in Asia after the December 2004 Tsunami.  At
 that time, Fischer received a $68,000 grant from the NSF to research the
 handling of bodies in Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.  Fischer found that the
 Buddhist religion's custom of wrapping and burning the bodies was not
 abandoned as had been reported.
     "Prior to arriving in Thailand we heard reports of mass burials, and we
 even saw photographs of mass burials," said Fischer. "When we started our
 interviews with local people and they said they didn't have mass graves, we
 thought they were hiding something.  It turns out there were never any mass
 burials and they didn't even think about that possibility."
     The information from Fischer's work in the Gulf Coast will be shared with
 the research community via a San Diego State University super computer.
     "The Gulf Coast is threatened by hurricanes on a regular basis," said
 Fischer.  "We will help the emergency responders document what went well in
 their view, and what will be amended for the future. This is valuable
 information that will help others prepare for such events in the future."

SOURCE Millersville University