Thailand begins collecting DNA of tsunami victims
* 19 countries coordinating efforts with Thai authorities
PHUKET: Forensic experts and medical staff have begun collecting DNA samples from the victims of the tsunami disaster in Thailand, in the hopes of offering families proof of their loved ones’ fates.
The international community and the Thai authorities are working together on the process.
“Nineteen countries are now working together. More than 300 people are working with the same orders and under one direction,” police Colonel Pornprasert Kanchanarin told diplomats and volunteers in the resort town of Phuket. “All information will be sent to police in Phuket,” he said, adding that an Internet site had already been set up.
On the ground, teams have begun taking samples from bodies collected from the destroyed beaches and buildings. Teeth are removed so they can be compared to the victim’s dental X-rays while a small piece of the body’s femur bone is also taken for DNA testing – a service China has offered to provide for free.
If the bodies have not decomposed too badly, fingerprints will also be taken and all bodies will be tagged with an electronic chip to make them easier to locate later.
Thai authorities have established centres in morgues where relatives of those missing or unaccounted can have a blood sample taken for possible DNA matching with a cadaver. The work ahead of those collecting the remains could take weeks but the work of comparing genetic samples with the possible victims’ DNA in each of their home countries will almost certainly take months All workers are wearing sterile gloves, eye-protection and face masks.
Despite everything, procedures seem to be in place. Remains have been placed in refrigerated containers and treated with a nitrogenous substance to prevent further deterioration. “We have had a slight delay to the start. But this is the first time that we have had so many victims from so many difference countries. Now, we are going to regain lost time,” a French policeman said.
To avoid losing time in traffic jams, scientists are being taken by helicopter to the sites. Thai authorities have tried to limit the numbers of people entering some areas after noticing the amount of looting in the devastated Khao Lak region.
Colonel Pornprasert appealed on Saturday to those countries affected not to take individual action to recover the remains of their nationals. “Everyone must help one another. If everyone works alone, problems will crop up.” afp