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Crews picking up bodies left outside in Mississippi

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — Crews are driving around coastal Mississippi, picking up bodies left on sidewalks like garbage and depositing them in refrigerated mobile morgues. Coroners are conducting autopsies in parking lots because the only available light is from the sun.

Most Hurricane Katrina relief efforts are focused on the living, many of whom are struggling to get enough food, water, shelter, power and medical attention. The dead are a lower priority, and many bodies have been putrefying since the water receded Monday.

The official Mississippi death toll was 126 and rising Thursday as search-and-rescue teams and dogs go through the ruins of neighborhoods washed away by the huge storm surge.

Most of the bodies in Jackson County — where the beach towns of Pascagoula, Gautier and Ocean Springs were swamped — have been taken to the Heritage Funeral Home in Moss Point. The business has no water, power or phone service, making the job of storing and identifying the dead difficult for Coroner Vicki Broadus and a forensic pathologist working with her.

A refrigerated truck was running in the parking lot Thursday with 10 bodies, six of which could not be identified. Broadus said most of the victims drowned or suffered severe injuries when buildings collapsed around them.

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