Three coffins wrongly labelled, official admits

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 September, 2010, 12:00am

Grieving families of victims from the Manila tragedy received a fresh blow when it was found three of the coffins containing the bodies were wrongly labelled.

The errors were discovered when members of one of the families went to identify a body at Kwai Chung Public Mortuary and found that the body in the coffin was not their relative.

The other seven coffins had to be opened for inspection after the discovery and it was found that three coffins were wrongly labelled, a person familiar with the situation said.

Confirming the error last night, the Hong Kong government said it had occurred at the Manila funeral home that handled the bodies and was discovered after the bodies were flown home on August 25.

A government spokesman said funeral workers in Manila might have made the mistake when they were sticking name labels on the coffins before they were taken to the airport for the flight to Hong Kong.

He confirmed the mistakes were found when families went to identify bodies on August 25.

A source familiar with the situation said Hong Kong officials in Manila had agreed with their Philippines counterparts that simple coffins be used in the early stages to speed up the return of the bodies and the coffins had been correctly labelled at that stage. But the bodies were later transferred to more elaborate coffins and that was when the error occurred, the source said.

The vice-chairman of the Legco security panel, James To Kun-sun, said that while the mistake might have been from the Philippine side, Hong Kong officials still had bear part of the blame because they had been sent to Manila to take care of all matters including the reception, identification and transport of the bodies.