Indonesia/Australia — International co-operation has hastened the process of identifying bushfire victims.
A team of six Indonesian disaster victim identification experts leaves today, after two weeks working alongside the Australian teams charged with the grim task of identifying the bodies of those killed in the February 7 fires.
The official death toll currently stands at 210, but is expected to rise.
In recent years Australia has provided victim identification experts to Indonesia following disasters there, and yesterday, the Indonesian team leader, Dr Mussadeq Ishaq, thanked Australian authorities for the opportunity to respond in kind.
“Indonesia has always been assisted by Australian police to perform DVI operations in all Indonesian disasters, especially man-made disasters, cases such as the Bali bombings, the Jakarta Marriott and Australian embassy bombings, and the Garuda air crash. Now it is the time for us to assist Australia with our best expertise, even though it is not as much as you have given to us.”
The team of pathologists and odontologists, from Java and Sumatra, worked alongside Australian forces in some of the areas hardest hit by the Black Saturday firestorms, including Marysville and Kinglake.
Director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine Professor Stephen Cordner paid tribute to the Indonesian team’s willingness to volunteer as Australia reeled from the bushfire tragedy.
“Our friends to the north in Indonesia recognised our plight and resolved to help. Within a week the team arrived, and for the past two weeks its work has strengthened our response to the disaster.
“Our response has been a better one because of your help. And we would like to thank you for that.”