Christchurch victims begin burial

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Mourners lay flowers on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Saturday, March 16, 2019. New Zealand's stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighborhoods and around the country on Saturday, in a fierce determination to show kindness to a community in pain as a 28-year-old white supremacist stood silently before a judge, accused in mass shootings at two mosques that left dozens of people dead. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Burials will begin Wednesday for the victims of Christchurch’s mosques massacre, after a lengthy delay that has anguished families, officials said.

“The first burial of a victim of Friday 15 March’s tragic mosque shooting will take place this morning,” Christchurch City Council said.

The names and nationalities of those being buried have not been released.

“The body will be brought on site, taken to a private marquee that has been set up as a family area,” said council spokeswoman Jocelyn Ritchie.

“After a short time for prayers, family and friends will carry the body to the grave site where it will be laid to rest,” she added.

“The family and friends of the deceased will fill in the grave, at which point they will then say their farewells.”

Islamic custom dictates that people have to be buried as soon as possible, but the scale and devastation of Friday’s massacre — that saw 50 killed in the usually quiet southern New Zealand city — has delayed the handover of bodies to next of kin.

Police commissioner Mike Bush said that the process had been slow because of the need to identify victims conclusively and to avoid hindering the prosecution.

By late Tuesday, 21 victims had been identified, he said.

Some 120 people are working to “ensure absolute accuracy in that identification process” and liaise with families, who had expressed anger at the slow pace of the process.

“We must prove for prosecution the cause of death to the satisfaction of the the corner, for the judge.” Bush said. “You cannot convict of murder without that cause of death.”

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