Monday, January 13, 2014

Why identifying Typhoon Haiyan's dead matters to the living

IRIN: The authorities in Tacloban City, capital of Leyte Province in central Philippines, have concluded a mass burial of unidentified bodies retrieved from the debris left by Typhoon Haiyan. In a report published on 7 January, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) estimated that the category 5 storm had killed more than 6,100 people, and another 1,700 are registered as missing. Some 5,000 deaths occurred in Leyte Province.

In the days immediately after the typhoon, dead bodies littered the streets. Dogs roamed, gnawing on human flesh. Residents are still chilled by the memory and cover their eyes in horror when they recall it. With most facilities destroyed or damaged, local authorities and survivors struggled to tend to the needs of the living in the devastated region. A government psychiatrist walked and, when roads became passable, cycled 10km daily to meet patients who could get to the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Centre.

Rainwater has had to be pumped out of burial grounds to prevent the body bags from floating. Two government ministries tried to work out where and what was required to bury more bodies than anyone had expected, Tacloban city's mayor, Alfred Romualdez, told IRIN on 5 January, when burials were taking place for the second day. Some 1,400 bodies have been recovered but not claimed in the city so far.

...The Department of Health (DOH) implements national policy on the management of dead and missing persons during emergencies and disasters.

The Philippine Department of Justice’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is using protocols developed by Interpol, the international police agency, called disaster victim identification (DVI), which borrows from the forensic science used in criminal investigations....

Tacloban's harbor, shot by JinJian, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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