Interpol team in Philippines to help identify victims

Agence France-Presse

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The team will assess challenges including the possible need for temporary mortuary sites

TEMPORARY. Authorities start burying the dead in Tacloban City. File photo by Jake Verzosa

LYON, France – Interpol said Tuesday, November 19, it had sent experts to the Philippines to help identify victims of the deadly typhoon that killed thousands and left up to four million displaced.

The experts are drawn from Canada, South Africa and the International Commission on Missing Persons, and include DNA and computer specialists, the Lyon-based organization said in a statement. (READ: How to handle corpses during disasters)

“Clearly, one of the main priorities for the Philippine authorities is to find and rescue as many living victims as possible and for the humanitarian relief operations to continue,” said Interpol’s Director of Operational Support Michael O’Connell, who is leading the team.

“But what is also important is the swift and accurate identification of thousands of victims, which is where international support and coordination is essential and where Interpol can unite the global community in such efforts,” he said. (READ: Burial of Yolanda casualties must wait – health official)

The team will assess challenges including the “possible need for temporary mortuary sites equipped with refrigerated containers and mobile forensic laboratories or work facilities,” the organization said.

Thousands of people died when Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan) – packing some of the strongest winds ever recorded – smashed into the Philippines on November 8, generating tsunami-like waves that flattened entire communities and left up to four million people displaced.

The country, which is hit by an average of 22 typhoons per year, has been described as one of the nations most vulnerable to extreme weather.

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