Wednesday, January 14, 2009

NBI: No mass burial of unidentified victims of ‘Frank’

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 01/15/2009 12:16 AM

Dr. Renato Bautista, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) - Disaster Victims Identification (DVI) team leader, clarified that the Interpol and his team are not planning to cremate or conduct a mass burial for the unidentified bodies of the victims of Typhoon Frank especially of a boat tragedy last year.

Bautista said that many relatives of the victims came to their office after reading a report that a mass burial and cremation for unidentified bodies of the victims of the ill-fated MV Princess of the Stars and other victims of Typhoon Frank will be conducted.

Bautista clarified that they will not make any move without consulting the relatives of the victims.

He said that in the end, it will be the family’s decision that they will follow. Bautista said that the families can either agree to mass cremate the bodies, conduct a mass burial, or both.

Bautista stressed however that these are just possibilities and that there is no plan for it.

Bautista cited the earlier Superferry 14 tragedy, wherein the families of the victims agreed to cremate the bodies and had the ashes distributed to the families.

He said that they have not yet started consulting the families regarding the possibilities since they are still waiting for the other results of DNA samples.

275 identified from ‘Princess’
Bautista also clarified that there have been 275 bodies identified from the 307 bodies recovered on the first salvage operation in Sibuyan Island last year. 235 bodies were identified through DNA samples matching while 40 were identified through fingerprinting, dental samples, and positive identification of the families. He said that the first batch of the dead bodies were still identifiable physically.

Out of the 275 identified bodies, 76 bodies remained unclaimed. 63 of them are in Cosmopolitan, six in Bantayan Island, and seven in Cadiz.

On the second batch, 199 body bags arrived in Cebu. Each body bags contained several body parts from several victims. Bautista is not sure as to how many victims were inside the body bags. Out of the 199, only four were identified.

Bautista said that they are still waiting for DNA results. He said that more ante-mortem samples are needed to identify the bodies. He said that they plan to get more samples in IloIlo. Bautista also said that not all of the bodies they have now are from the sunken MV Princess of the Stars.

On February 5, the Interpol will turnover their work to NBI-DVI in identifying the bodies.

He said that since their job started, they were able to collect 239 case files of the victims, which will also be turned over to them. He said that the case files will serve as reference. A case file contains photos of the cadavers and photos of the victims when they were still alive. It also has DNA matching results and DNA sample forms.

President Arroyo, International Commission on Missing Persons Director General Kathryne Bomberger, and Interpol Director General Ronald Noble are set to attend the turn-over ceremony at the city hall of Cebu City.

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