Since a large number of bodies retrieved in typhoon ‘Yolanda’-hit areas remain unidentified, the Department of Health (DOH) on Friday established a quick system in managing corpses with help from forensic experts.
These forensic experts come from the World Health Organization (WHO), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the University of the Philippines.
The teams, each composed by a forensic expert and four others including a photographer, will start work using the quick system on Saturday, Nov 16.
According to DOH, this system is similar to currently existing international standards on Disaster Victims Identification (DVI).
Under the system, the public will not be allowed to view the identification process but relatives will be asked to participate in the final identification of corpses at an appointed time, the DOH said.
The DOH aslo requires each team to handle 40 corpses every day; while identification of corpses will take a while but Health Secretary Enrique Ona asked the public, especially relatives of victims, to be more patient and understanding.
Ona said that photos, identifying marks and belongings, and appropriate samples for possible DNA testing will be collected as practical as can be, considering prevailing harsh conditions.
After the identification procedure, corpses will be temporarily buried according to prevailing protocol that will allow future investigations when necessary.
The Philippine Red Cross meanwhile, will assist the teams by providing psycho-social support and preparing communities.
Secretary Enrique Ona has also reiterated that decaying corpses do not cause epidemics and in fact, infectious germs do not survive in the corpses beyond 48 hours.
Precautions should only be taken by body handlers, who can wear face masks and gloves, and when disposing of bodies must wash their hands afterwards, he said. PNA