LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The remains of hundreds of Los Angeles County residents whose bodies were never claimed by family or friends were buried in a mass burial Wednesday.

“This holiday season many of us are reminded how fortunate we are to be surrounded by our loved ones,” Supervisor Don Knabe said Tuesday, when he and his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors observed a moment of silence for the people being buried. “Sadly, not everyone shares this blessing.”

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He said the 1,639 people designated for the mass interment at the Los Angeles County Crematory and Cemetery “are individuals that, for one reason or another, have no one but the county to provide them with a respectful and dignified burial.”

“700 [were] basically just neglected, unclaimed individuals, which is so sad, they just had no one,” said Knabe. “The remainder were either homeless, indigent, with no immediate family members or no contact with family for many, many years and the family just said,’Let the county do it’.”

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KNX 1070’s Brian Ping reports the county has been performing these mass interments for over a century.

If a family member is contacted upon a death, Knabe said, they have 30 days to decide whether to claim the body. After that, the remains are cremated and held for three years, after which they are buried if still unclaimed.

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“Regardless of what their status in life was, each one of their lives matters,” he said. “It matters to us, their county family.”

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