The problems centre on a Chinese laboratory that has responsibility for analyzing the DNA of those killed in the tragedy. The laboratory in Beijing offered to help identify the bodies in the days following the tragedy, but according to Sonny Björk, a police forensic scientist in Stockholm the tests have taken “an extremely long time”.
It was announced this week that 347 Swedes have officially been declared dead as a result of the tsunami. All these were identified through dental records or fingerprints. A further 197 Swedes are missing, and DNA tests are likely to be required to identify these victims. Many of these are children, who often have no dental records to help identify them.
The problems have been made worse by the poor quality of the DNA samples taken from the bodies. As they were not frozen immediately, many of them have degraded, making them more difficult to use. Svenska Dagbladet claims that only half of the DNA samples taken at the scene are usable. It also claims that there are doubts about whether the Chinese lab has sufficient experience to carry out the job.
In order to speed up the work on DNA, labs in a number of other countries including Sweden are now being used. Nonetheless, Stig Edqvist, Swedish leader of the international identification commission in Phuket, Thailand, says that the work will take time to complete.
“It could take very many months – maybe as much as a year,” he said, adding: “in a sense the work is going according to plan, but now the process is getting harder and harder.”