A Newton County, Missouri, official said authorities would begin streamlining the process of identifying bodies Saturday in Joplin in the aftermath of a killer tornado.
"The decision was made that if a person can make a positive ID, let’s say for instance … piercings or tattoos," said Mark Bridges of the Newton County, Missouri, coroner’s office, "[Saturday] we’re gonna start the process of allowing those people to view the bodies of the loved ones."
"We’re going to go ahead and start releasing those bodies," he said.
Already frayed nerves reached a boiling point Friday in Joplin, Missouri, as families trying to retrieve their dead loved ones were stalled by cautious medical examiners meticulously trying to sort remains.
The deadliest tornado ever recorded in the U.S. smashed through the city Sunday, killing 132 people and leaving more than 156 unaccounted for.
While acknowledging families’ frustration, Bridges told CNN’s Eliott Spitzer that they were making “good progress” in identifying bodies.
Bridges said the coroners were trying to avoid a horror that had unfortunately already taken place.[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2011/05/26/exp.arena.joplin.tornado.morgue.cnn"%5D
“The situation that we had early on is we had some family members that made identification on an individual and they got him to a mortuary, got him embalmed, got him dressed and when they went back [to prepare visitation services] it was not their son,” he said. “So the Jasper County Coroner ... clamped it [streamlined identification] down at that time.”
But that was little comfort for residents like Divine Akino, who lost her mother in the twister.
The Kansas City, Missouri, resident said her mother’s body was released Friday morning, one of the first, but only after days of agonizing bureaucratic red tape.
“We just want to claim our dead bodies,” Akino said. “It was a little frustrating because we kept asking them, ‘Where is the help that we’re getting?' " she said, referring to the coroner's office. "Is this where our tax dollars are going?”
Akino said her mother was worshipping at the evening service at Harmony Heights Baptist Church when the tornado tore the walls down.
Drawn to the Bible's message of salvation, Grace Akino was a religious woman, her daughter said.
“She named me Divine because I was the first born. She and my dad met through a missionary in the Philippines,” she said.
Grace Akino's body was found covering her 12-year-son, who survived, Divine Akino said.
A visitation service for Grace Akino drew more than 200 people late Friday, her daughter said.