CEBU CITY, Philippines – The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) provided Filipino authorities with the 70th DNA- based identification yesterday in its on-going effort to help identify the victims of Typhoon Frank.
ICMP experts deployed rapidly to the Philippines, at INTERPOL's request, in the wake of the disaster and they have been operating in Cebu City with Interpol and Filipino authorities from the National Bureau of Investigations to identify the bodies of victims of the disaster.
It is estimated that over 1,300 persons were unaccounted for as a consequence of the typhoon, which struck the region on 21 June. Of that number, approximately 866 persons were missing from the 24,000-ton ferry MV Princess of the Stars and an estimated 500 other people were missing from other vessels that went down in the same area.
ICMP, which operates the world's largest DNA identification laboratory system, has thus far received bone samples from 312 mortal remains recovered from the Princess of the Stars and other vessels. In addition, ICMP has received blood reference samples from the families of 777 of the victims. With these samples, ICMP has thus far generated 70 DNA-based identifications which have been delivered to the Identification Board in Cebu City where final identifications are being carried out. To date 35 identifications have been issued by this board and their family members have been notified.
On 17th August the families of the first ten victims were able to bury their relatives after a special mass and commemoration ceremony in Cebu City attended by Interpol Secretary-General Ron Noble, ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger and Philippine authorities.
ICMP experts last worked with INTERPOL teams in coordinating major forensic identification of victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed many thousands of people. This experience led to a cooperation agreement signed in November 2007 between the two organizations to ensure cooperation in future disaster victim identification efforts.
ICMP Director General Kathryne Bomberger said in Cebu City: “DNA matching is the most advanced methodology for identifying missing persons. We at the ICMP were honored to be able to use our sophisticated equipment and the experience of our personnel to help ensure that victims of the typhoon disaster are identified as accurately and quickly as humanly possible.”