INTERPOL and ICMP mark one year anniversary of Philippines ferry disaster

21 June 2009: One year after the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars ferry during Typhoon Frank, INTERPOL and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) today paid their respects to the victims and their families at a ceremony.

Following the disaster, in which an estimated 800 passengers and crew lost their lives when the ferry capsized, an INTERPOL Incident Response Team (IRT), which included experts from the ICMP, was deployed to Cebu City to assist Philippine authorities in the identification of victims.

The DNA-assisted identification process launched by the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) unit, resulted in nearly 2,500 reference blood samples being collected from family members which assisted in the DNA identification of 449 victims, enabling their remains to be returned to their loved ones.

“INTERPOL was a partner in dealing with this tragedy from the very beginning because disasters like the ferry tragedy cannot be handled alone by any one country or by any one government, whether federal, regional or local,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.

“I promised the families of the victims the first time that I met them that INTERPOL would be with them until the last victim who could be identified had been identified. And today, when we mark the anniversary of this tragedy I am proud to say that is a promise that my staff and I honoured.”

At a ceremony in Cebu City in February 2009 to mark the official handover of the victim identification process, Philippines Secretary of Defense Gilbert Teodoro said that ‘the efforts of INTERPOL, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), Philippines law enforcement authorities, local and national government authorities as well as the wider international community in identifying the victims of Typhoon Frank have proved an outstanding example of international co-operation’.

“The fact that we were able to help identify almost all of the mortal remains recovered is a testament to the joint efforts of Interpol, the Philippine authorities, particularly the NBI DVI team, and most importantly, the families of those that perished. Without their contribution, this would not have been possible. On behalf of ICMP, I would like to assure the families of those who perished in the Typhoon that our thoughts are with them today on the occasion of this one year anniversary,” ICMP Director General Kathryne Bomberger said.

ICMP experts previously worked with INTERPOL teams during the co-ordinated major forensic identification of victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami which killed thousands of people. A co-operation agreement was subsequently signed in November 2007 between the two organizations to ensure co-operation in future disaster victim identification efforts.