Friday, 15 November 2013

Forensics experts to start identifying 'Yolanda' bodies on Saturday

Starting Saturday, several teams of five members each, including a forensic expert and a photographer, will identify bodies in regions hardest-hit by typhoon Yolanda, the Philippines’ health department announced on Friday.

"Photos, identifying marks and belongings, and appropriate samples for possible DNA testing will be collected as practical as can be, considering prevailing harsh conditions," Health Secretary Enrique Ona said.

The system, which can handle up to 40 bodies a day, is similar to currently existing international standards on Disaster Victims Identification (DVI), the health department said.

Although it will disallow public viewing, surviving relatives will be asked to participate in the final identification of bodies at an appointed time, the health chief said, appealing for the public’s “patience and understanding.”

Once identified, the bodies will be buried based on prevailing protocol that will allow future investigations when necessary.

“It is important that we bury our dead with dignity. Rushing on things will not help at all in the long run,” Ona said.

Forensics experts will come from the World Health Organization (WHO), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the University of the Philippines (UP).

For its part, the Philippine Red Cross will support the teams by providing psychosocial support and preparing communities.

The health secretary also reiterated that dead bodies "do not cause epidemics."

"Most infectious germs do not survive beyond 48 hours. Body handlers can wear gloves when they handle bodies and must wash their hands as precautionary measure," he said.

Friday 15 November 2013


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