Thandeka Moyo, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT has engaged the services of the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Applied Genetic Testing Centre (AGTC) to help identify people who died after Cyclone Idai hit some parts of the country.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister, July Moyo told Senators on Tuesday that a number of bodies were still buried under rubble and stones in Manicaland province.
The Minister said 179 were confirmed dead but the figure was rising as more bodies were being discovered.
He said the number of dead and missing people was increasing and there was likelihood that by the time the bodies are found, it will be difficult to identify them hence the need for Nust DNA services.
Minister Moyo said the number of those who are missing has so far been put at 329.
“We are working with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and National University of Science and Technology which helped us last time when we had a bus disaster in West Nicholson and passengers were burnt beyond recognition. We believe we will be able to identify these bodies that will be exhumed from under the rubble or the stones. At an area called Kopa for example, where there used to be a police station, agricultural extension officers and a school, one can only find stones and mud and we do not know how deep the people are buried,” said Minister Moyo.
He said some Zimbabwean rescue and search teams had found some bodies in Mozambique but villagers were failing to identify any of them.
“This gives us the phenomenon of what was happening at that place called Kopa where people from other areas used to come to buy bananas. Whereas we are saying we know 329 people are missing, we do not know how many traders were at the place when the cyclone struck who could also be buried under the rubble,” he said.
In addition, Minister Moyo said there were artisanal miners in that area who are believed to have been killed.
He said rescue and search teams had to source sniffer dogs from neighbouring South Africa to assist in the search.
“We have sniffer dogs which are trained to sniff mbanje and gold but cannot sniff bodies hence we had to request for assistance from SA. We have since received teams of sniffer dogs that are trained to sniff bodies,” said Minister Moyo.