DVI expertise in the field
Since 2004, a total of 17 disaster victim identification (DVI) teams have been deployed to disasters across the world. Some examples are below.
Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines
In November 2013, an INTERPOL DVI team supported authorities in the Philippines following Super Typhoon Haiyan which left nearly 7,000 people dead or missing.
The team worked with Philippine authorities and other international experts to develop a structured DVI network in order to avoid duplication of DVI efforts. Strategic and practical challenges included the need for temporary mortuary sites equipped with refrigerated containers and mobile forensic laboratories and work facilities.
Plane crash in Namibia
DVI teams are able to coordinate identification efforts on an international level, which is crucial in cases involving victims from multiple countries. For example, in November 2013, a plane crash in Namibia caused the death of 33 passengers and crew members from six different countries. An INTERPOL DVI Team was deployed to Windhoek to conduct DVI operations together with Namibian authorities.
Westgate Mall terrorist attacks in Kenya
Following a high-profile terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya (September 2013), in which more than 60 people were killed and some 175 others wounded, an INTERPOL DVI Team assisted Kenyan authorities with crime scene processing and the identification of victims. Specialists carried out real-time comparisons against INTERPOL’s global databases on DNA and fingerprints and other evidence gathered from the crime scene. Read more in the media release.
Plane crashes in the Congo
In December 2012, following the crash of a cargo plane a few hundred metres from Brazzaville airport which killed at least 30 people, an INTERPOL team was deployed to assist and advise the Scientific Police of the Congo with regard to DVI procedure.
Following a plane crash which killed 23 people in March 2011, an INTERPOL team was dispatched to Pointe-Noire in the Republic of the Congo, to lend its expertise in the area of DVI.
Terrorist attacks in Uganda
In July 2010, an INTERPOL Response Team was sent to Kampala, Uganda, following bombing attacks on a restaurant and social club during the final match of the FIFA World Cup. The attacks left more than 70 people dead and at least 70 others seriously injured. DVI experts played a central role on the ground, supporting the work of national authorities with their identification efforts. In addition, two Black Notices featuring reconstructed photographs of the suspected suicide bombers were issued and an Orange Notice was published to inform law enforcement authorities worldwide of the modus operandi used by the terrorists.
AF447 air tragedy
An INTERPOL Incident Response Team (IRT) assisted the Brazilian and French police in identifying the victims of the Air France AF447 plane tragedy in June 2009, in which 228 people from 32 countries lost their lives. The IRT acted as a liaison point in collecting ante-mortem data (such as dental and medical records, fingerprints and DNA from the victims' homes or family member) and assisted experts leading the operation to collect post-mortem data from the remains of the recovered victims. The international coordinated effort led to the identification of all 50 recovered victims.
Ferry disaster in the Philippines
Some 1,000 people perished during Typhoon Frank in the Philippines in June 2008, with more than 800 victims from the capsized ferry the Princess of the Stars alone. Eight days later, an INTERPOL Incident Response Team arrived in Cebu City to support the local authorities in identifying the victims.
Comprising DNA and Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) experts and a representative from the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), the team played a central role on the ground in supporting the work of the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation in their ongoing DVI efforts.
The IRT showed INTERPOL’s capacity to support a country in a long-term, large-scale specialized operation. Practical requirements included:
- Refrigerated containers to preserve the bodies with dignity;
- Mobile forensic labs for swift and efficient DNA analysis;
- Victim Identification Information Centre for grieving relatives and friends;
- Close cooperation with the ICMP in Sarajevo, which has expertise in large-scale victim identification and the most up-to-date DNA matching techniques.
More than 3,000 DNA samples were collected from victims and from their relatives. Of the 609 bodies recovered from the vessels, 483 were identified using DNA analysis and other traditional methods such as examination of fingerprints and dental records.
DVI in action
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