Typhoon Haiyan: Interpol team in Philippines to help identify victims

Typhoon Haiyan survivors pass by hundreds of victims lying in body bags on the roadside until forensic experts can register and bury them in a mass grave outside of Tacloban, Philippines, on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2013. Interpol said on Tuesday that it had
Typhoon Haiyan survivors pass by hundreds of victims lying in body bags on the roadside until forensic experts can register and bury them in a mass grave outside of Tacloban, Philippines, on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2013. Interpol said on Tuesday that it had sent experts to the Philippines to help identify victims of the deadly typhoon that killed thousands and left up to four million displaced. -- PHOTO: AP

LYON (AFP) - Interpol said on Tuesday that it had sent experts to the Philippines to help identify victims of the deadly typhoon that killed thousands and left up to four million displaced.

The experts are drawn from Canada, South Africa and the International Commission on Missing Persons, and include DNA and computer specialists, the Lyon-based organisation said in a statement.

"Clearly, one of the main priorities for the Philippine authorities is to find and rescue as many living victims as possible and for the humanitarian relief operations to continue," said Interpol's Director of Operational Support Michael O'Connell, who is leading the team.

"But what is also important is the swift and accurate identification of thousands of victims, which is where international support and coordination is essential and where Interpol can unite the global community in such efforts," he said.

The team will assess challenges including the "possible need for temporary mortuary sites equipped with refrigerated containers and mobile forensic laboratories or work facilities," the organisation said.

Thousands of people died when Haiyan - packing some of the strongest winds ever recorded - smashed into the Philippines on November 8, generating tsunami-like waves that flattened entire communities and left up to four million people displaced.

The country, which is hit by an average of 22 typhoons per year, has been described as one of the nations most vulnerable to extreme weather.