Forenses de Europa enviados para reconocimiento de víctimas de tsunami

KHAO LAK, Thailand (Reuters) — Foreign forensic experts joined the desperate race to identify Thailand’s tsunami victims as the death toll and the number of missing mounted on Thursday and people gave up hope of finding loved ones alive.
With much of Europe transfixed by a disaster which killed hundreds of its tourists escaping a dark, cold winter for the warmth of Thailand’s Andaman Sea shores, German, Swiss, Dutch, Australian and other forensic teams started their gruesome task.
On Khao Lak, the worst-hit beach in Thailand, a German team was called out late on Wednesday, shortly after arriving, because villagers thought they heard calls from people trapped inside a half-built luxury hotel. Sniffer dogs found no trace of life.
French, Italian and Danish teams were also in Phuket — one of Asia’s premier resort islands, just south of Khao Lak. A New Zealand team was on the way.
«It will be challenging,» said Karl Kent, head of a 17-member forensic team from the Australian Federal Police of the kind sent to Bali in the wake of the 2002 bombings that killed 202 people.
«The scale is of a magnitude that Australia and other countries have not experienced,» he said.
In Thailand, the government said at least 1,976 were known to have died and 345 of them were foreigners — the first time it has issued a separate number in its national toll.
The final toll will certainly be much higher, with local police saying more than 1,800 bodies have been recovered from Khao Lak alone.
Police believe as many as 3,000 people may have died around Khao Lak when the wall of water rolled up the gently sloping beach — which made it an ideal family holiday spot with safe swimming for children.
It smashed into a line of luxury hotels and drove up to 1 km (1,000 yards) inland from a beach particularly popular among Scandinavians and Germans.
More than 2,200 Scandinavians, including 1,500 Swedes, are missing in countries around the Indian Ocean along with 1,000 Germans. Many of them could be among Thailand’s 6,043 missing.
Khao Lak is yielding at least 300 bodies a day, despite a search and rescue operation officials admit is struggling to cope in a country which rarely suffers natural disasters worse than floods during the annual monsoon.
The grim task of retrieving them was interrupted briefly by a tremor which cleared the sand of people in a flash, the fear of another tsunami flashing through every mind in the stampede.
How long it will take to finish finding the missing and identify the dead, nobody knows.
«It’s going to be a huge operation,» said Australian envoy Bill Patterson. «I think it could take weeks.»
After days in the sub-tropical heat, most of the bodies are beyond recognition and survivors searching for loved ones are faced with gruesome mosaics of photographs at Buddhist temples used as a temporary morgue.
For some, there no photographs, only hints — a watch, a ring, a mobile telephone.
Briton Rob Ward was handing out photographs of the young son of a friend in what he acknowledged was a vain attempt to find someone who might know he is alive.
«It would be some comfort for the parents to know definitely what happened,» he said.
The forensic teams will collect dental evidence and DNA samples, take fingerprints, photographs and X-rays, and will look for jewelry or documents that may help identify bodies.
An immediate need was refrigeration to preserve bodies and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra promised refrigerated containers.
Aid teams were also starting to worry about disease on the coast, where local sources of drinking water are likely to have been contaminated by sea water.
«We are very concerned that there will be later disease outbreaks in places with lesser availability of medical and public health facilities,» said Australian Drew Richardson, part of medical team from Canberra Hospital.

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