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March 2011
Home > Operation Earthquake

DVI and USAR teams faced 'absolute hell'

Police specialists in disaster victim identification (DVI) and search and rescue worked alongside Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams from the UK, US, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and New Zealand.

“The first three or four days were absolute hell,” says Shane Boyle, USAR tasking technician. Police were also required to authorise USAR teams to enter premises and take care of recovered personal property such as wallets, handbags and laptops.

Detective Constable Kelly Larsen coordinated and documented search progress in the CBD. Information was fed into a database by a Department of Conservation team. The resulting maps allowed Police to reduce the cordon as buildings were given the all clear. Inspector John Price of Christchurch is on the right.
Photos: Kathryn Fitzpatrick, Ten-One
“This is bread and butter work but significantly bigger than usual,” says Sergeant Dene Duthie, who coordinated the antemortem phase at Burnham. A Police ICT team had extensive computer and radio systems up and running within 48 hours.
Thousands of properties were evaluated by engineers, resulting in a colour-coded map of Christchurch. Detective Greg Brand says USAR teams, including staff from Police and Ministry of Social Development, visited 1210 “red” addresses that engineers marked critical.


In following the international DVI process, police used fingerprints, dental records

and DNA to confirm victims’ identities.

A temporary mortuary was set up at Burnham Military Camp. Every effort was

made to identify victims and return them to loved ones as quickly as possible.

Photos: supplied  
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