x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Interpol sends experts to Philippines to help identify bodies

Experts from Canada, South Africa and the International Commission on Missing Persons include DNA specialists.

LYON // Interpol said yesterday it had sent experts to the Philippines to help identify victims of the deadly typhoon that killed thousands and displaced up to four million.

The experts are drawn from Canada, South Africa and the International Commission on Missing Persons, and include DNA and computer specialists, the Lyon-based organisation said.

“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.

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 organisation said.

Thousands of people died when 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.

In Tacloban, one of the worst-hit cities, a Roman Catholic priest led dozens of displaced survivors on a march, seeking to boost its spirits.

The marchers sang “We shall overcome” as they toured parts of Tacloban, at one point skirting some unburied corpses in bags by the roadside.

The Rev Robert Reyes, an activist priest known for running long distances across country to draw attention to social issues, said the marchers were living in a church and a sports stadium.

“This is not an ordinary march. We call it the walk to overcome,” said Rev Reyes. “This is part of what we call psycho-social therapy where you listen to the victims of the disaster but you also make them believe that they can actually heal themselves.”

The airport in Tacloban, which was almost entirely destroyed in the storm, has emerged as relief hub, with scores of aid flights arriving each day carrying food, water, medicine, generators and heavy lifting equipment. The pace has picked up markedly in recent days compared to the chaos in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Agence France-Presse and Associated Press