Asbestos threat hampers search for bushfire victims

Asbestos threat hampers search for bushfire victims

published by

11 Feb 2009

The search for bushfire victims is being slowed as search teams are confronting wrecked buildings that have been constructed with asbestos.

Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said police had been issued with masks but said the safety of search parties remains a priority.

If rubble and wreckage has to be moved as part of the hunt for bodies police may need to bring in asbestos experts to assist.

Ms Nixon said she hoped all searches will be completed by Sunday. The toll stands at 181 but police fear the number could exceed 300 after all areas have been checked. They admit some bodies may never be found.

The unprecedented effort to discover and then identify bodies will take months, police said.

Ms Nixon said 50 local, national and international Disaster Victim Identification teams will be used to search the areas.

Teams from Indonesia, veterans of the Bali bombing investigation. would join the search, she said.

She said police involved in the searches would be rotated to try and minimise the trauma involved in the high stress work.

The head of Taskforce Phoenix, Assistant Commissioner (crime) Dannye Maloney warned the process of identification would be slow.

“People will need to be patient. We just can’t afford to make mistakes. The community has been through enough already.”

The taskforce in likely to take a year to prepare individual briefs of evidence for the coroner on every death.

It will also be able to provide information to the royal commission into Victoria’s bushfires.


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