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Major disaster exercise to improve victim identification

© Belga
© Belga

The Disaster Victim Identification team (DVI) of the federal police last week carried out a major exercise in the military hospital in Neder-over-Heembeek in the north of Brussels, aimed at identifying more rapidly the victims of incidents like the March 22 bombings in Zaventem and Brussels. The exercise also involved the defence and public health ministries, the Red Cross, the civil protection service and the federal prosecutor’s office.

After the attacks of March 2016, a parliamentary commission advised the DVI that victim identification should be carried out faster, for the sake of the relatives as well as the interests of the investigation.

The exercise was organised around a fictitious but highly plausible scenario: a petrol tanker has exploded near the railway station in Etterbeek in Brussels. There are around 30 victims, including nine fatalities and one badly burned person who has lost consciousness. The nine bodies and the seriously injured victim have been brought to the Queen Astrid military hospital where they have to be identified as quickly as possible. At the same time, relatives of victims and potential victims need to be received in the best way possible (photo), and rapidly informed whether their relative has been one of the victims or not.

Among the advances already made, and in use during the exercise, was a mobile refrigerated morgue which can be transported to the scene of the disaster to help preserve the bodies of victims until an identification can be confirmed. The DVI has also been given the technology to allow it to record and process examinations on the ground or in any facility set up at the scene for the purpose.

The Red Cross, meanwhile, has improved its reception of relatives of victims, coordinator Peter Aerts told the VRT. “During the attacks of 22 March we learned that these people require a lot of support, as much before they are interviewed as afterwards.”

The conclusions of the exercise will be examined in the coming weeks, and practices adapted where necessary.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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