Govt hiding bodies from Hurricane Ike?

September 23, 2008 9:29:07 PM PDT
Since Hurricane Ike made landfall, we've heard a lot of stories. Many of which are true, others which couldn't be further from the truth.ROAD TO RECOVERY: Breaking news on Ike | School closings | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim | Latest power numbers

The fact is, Laura Recovery Center reports there have been 377 unresolved missing persons reports filed in the Houston-Galveston area since the hurricane. Another fact, the death toll in Texas stands at 26 but there a whole lot of fiction out there.

The winds had barely died down and already Ike was fueling another storm, one swirling with conspiracy.

Officials have heard plenty in the last ten days.

"Rumors start flying," said Galveston County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Pustilnik. "Sometimes the cousin of my brother-in-law neighbor at the barbershop heard somebody passing by said this."

And so have we.

Viewer emails have come in claiming there are countless 18-wheeler trailers full of refrigerators with crews unloading boxes and boxes of bodies. Another viewer reported the recovery of at least 60 bodies, while another says 89 corpses are at UTMB.

So is this truth or fiction?

When asked, Dr. Pustilnik says the county is not hiding bodies.

And in Crosby, despite the four FEMA trucks outside the crematorium, owner Stanley Blackwell says his cemetery is in fact the regional storage site for area funeral homes in the event of a disaster.

When the power went out, FEMA sent the refrigerated trucks and powerless funeral homes sent over their deceased. He stresses the 100 bodies he currently has are not stacked inside.

"We do not stack bodies," he told us.

And they are not hurricane victims.

"These are just natural causes that happen every day of the year," he added.

At UTMB where operations are still down, there is no conspiracy either.

"We don't have any hurricane victim's bodies at UTMB. We are not hiding bodies from Hurricane Ike," the hospital reported in a released statement to Eyewitness News.

Dr. Pustilnik has run down the rumors before. With entire communities wiped out and minimal fatalities, he understands how they grow.

"Misery loves company and everybody wants to think things are worse than they are," he said.

So far the death toll is what it is.

"There is nothing to gain on anybody's part to hide the deceased," he added.

In fact he says the accurate numbers are necessary to prevent future deaths. He cautions the death toll could rise as more and more people return to their Galveston neighborhoods and searches go through all of the debris.

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