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Death in a major disaster

Unfortunately, people can suddenly find themselves in the middle of a disaster wherever they may be. Deaths that take place in disasters are usually extremely sudden, striking without warning, and this means the grief they cause can be especially traumatic.

Deaths that occur in a disaster, whether natural or otherwise, can be very complicated, for several reasons. There are often problems with identifying remains, and you may have to supply the authorities with personal evidence, such as a sample of a loved-one’s hair and fingerprints, in order for them to make an identification.

If the disaster happened overseas, this throws up additional problems. You may find it difficult to gain information about what is happening in a different country, or you may be frustrated by the bureaucracy of their system. Deaths in disasters can lead to an anxious wait for the families affected, as they have to endure a terrible pause while the emergency services and the justice system grind through their gears of operation.

The charity Disaster Action was founded by survivors and the relatives of victims from some of the world’s worst disasters over the last twenty years; it offers a website full of practical advice about dealing with this kind of bereavement:

They also publish a guide specifically for dealing with disasters overseas, and how to deal with the obstacles this can create:


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