U.S. sending mobile morgue to Haiti to help ID American bodies

February 6th, 2010 - 4:02 pm ICT by BNO News  

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (BNO NEWS) – The United States Government on Friday began establishing a temporary morgue and forensic facility to help with the identification and handling of remains of American citizens killed in the earthquake.

The hub for this work will be an U.S. Health and Human Services National Disaster Medical System mobile facility known as the Disaster Portable Morgue Unit or DPMU, which arrived on a flight from Charleston, South Carolina on Tuesday.

A team of 25 specialists have also arrived and will begin the process of identifying American citizens and preparing their remains for the return to the United States.

Initial reconstruction efforts in Haiti started with removal of debris from some sites, including the Hotel Montana where many American citizens are believed to have lost their lives. The Hotel Montana, like many buildings in Port-au-Prince, simply collapsed with one floor falling on another.

Despite best efforts however, remains still in the Hotel Montana alone may take many weeks to recover.

Positively confirming identity is a painstaking process. Information gathered by interviewing families helps provide initial indicators such as tattoos or jewelry. Documents found on the bodies, such as driver’s license, strengthen the identification.

However, only a few indicators provide positive scientific identification, including dental details, fingerprints, implantable devices, and, in some cases, DNA matches. This requires the work of experts which include imaging specialists, anthropologists, fingerprint experts, and morticians who compromise the NDMS Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team.

Americans who are missing family members are encouraged to contact the U.S. State Department by phone at 888-407-4747.

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