The Disaster Victim Identification Center set up in Phuket, Thailand, has been delivered and managed by the Norwegian company Normeca a/s, which is specialized in establishing emergency field hospitals on short notice around the world. In Phuket, the medical facility has been serving forensic expert teams from all the Scandinavian countries – and at the height of the operation also teams from more than twenty other countries which suffered losses in the Tsunami.
     The man in the field running the facility is ØOyvind Myrvold, who joined Normeca five years ago after he retired with the rank of colonel from the Norwegian Army. Since his arrival to Thailand on January 14, the big, burly Norwegian had only been back on two short working visits to Norway when ScandAsia in mid April met him at the center during the visit of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
     The medical facility has been delivered as cleverly built containers, which during installation can be expanded to three times the width of a standard container. When the current job is finished, the containers will be collapsed again back to standard container size and handed over to the Thai Red Cross for use elsewhere if this should one day be needed.
     While ØOyvind Myrvold has been in charge of operating the physical facility, the forensic work undertaken by doctors, dentists and policemen at the center has been led by Site Managers selected on a rotating basis for a specific period of time among the countries that have forensic teams working at the center.
     As field operation manager working for Normeca, Øyvind Myrvold has been establishing mobile hospitals in very different places like Afghanistan, India, Jordan. The main difference with the installation in Phuket is, that while his job in all his previous assignments has been to provide medical facilities to help save lives, in Phuket all work has centered on the already dead.
     “The center’s job is to identify 1,850 dead foreign victims, which we keep in refrigerated containers. Until today (17 April 2005) 700 victims have been examined and all identifying data been collected. The forensic teams still have 1,100 victims to go,” he explains.
     The most difficult cases are the children because they have few physical characteristics like tattoos or dental records and because DNA has been a disappointing tool for identification. Most child victims have been identified by their estimated age and their fingerprints.
     Like everybody, who has been involved the tragic aftermath of the Tsunami, ØOyvind Myrvold admits that he has at times found the work at the center emotionally deeply distressing.
     “I have seen children this small…,” he says, holding his hands out as if he was carrying a small toddler in his empty hands. Then he stops the sentence and we switch subject.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Gregers Møller

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *