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September 14, 2005 3:00 AM

With DNA matches necessary, identifying bodies could take months

As the body count from Hurricane Katrina climbed to 474 in Louisiana on Wednesday, the states top medical official said about half of the bodies gathered so far may require DNA matches with relatives to be identified. Authorities are attempting to identify bodies that have been in rancid water or broiling attics for more than a week. So pathologists are painstakingly extracting DNA from every victim in the hope of matching it with a relative in a distant shelter, or with DNA gleaned from a personal item.

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