• Vol. 34 No. 5, 341–351
  • 15 June 2005

After the Indian Ocean Tsunami: Singapore’s Contribution to the International Disaster Victim Identification Effort in Thailand



This paper describes the international disaster victim identification (DVI) response mounted in Thailand, with particular reference to Singapore’s contribution to this process, in the wake of the Asian tsunami of 26 December, 2004, which devastated parts of more than 10 countries in and around the Indian Ocean and claimed more than 200,000 lives. Although Singapore was unscathed by this natural calamity, over 30 Singaporean visitors were counted amongst the thousands of deceased victims, mostly in Thailand. The systematic application of forensic pathology, forensic dentistry, DNA profiling, and fingerprinting to human identification, especially of the bodies of various nationalities that were in advanced states of putrefaction, was crucial to the entire DVI process. The authors perceive that the resource implications arising from such a disaster, which is unprecedented in both its scale and reach in the international history of DVI, are immense. Forward planning, adequate funding and international cooperation are essential to mounting an effective response to any major mass disaster of the future.

The now much-discussed tsunami of 26 December 2004, attributed to a massive undersea earthquake (magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale) that occurred off the coast of Banda Aceh in Sumatra, is reputed to have claimed the lives of over 200,000 in more than 10 countries, mostly within, or on the fringe of the Indian Ocean although its effects extended as far as Somalia and parts of the Middle East.

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