Puerto Rico seeks U.S. help as bodies pile up at forensics

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s governor is asking federal help for the U.S. territory’s forensics institute, which is struggling with understaffing and a backlog of the handling of bodies.

Ricardo Rossello said Monday that he has asked the secretary of the U.S. Health Department of Health and Human Services for up to two years’ worth of technical support. He said it was unacceptable that people are waiting months for autopsy reports.

Local legislators have launched an investigation into the island’s Institute of Forensic Science following complaints including bad odors. Forensic officials recently declined to open five containers holding 76 bodies when legislators showed up for a surprise visit.

An additional 259 bodies are kept inside the morgue. Overall, 56 bodies have been identified by relatives but remain unclaimed.

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