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DNA database to be built to identify dead in quake
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The Chinese government said it is to build a DNA database of those unidentified dead bodies after the disastrous Sichuan earthquake for later identification.

The government is going to cremate identified dead bodies and allow burial in those areas where cremation service is unavailable.

For those yet to be identified, the government said, police and medical workers will keep a numbered record, take pictures and collect body tissues for DNA tests. The police will manage the DNA database for future identification.

A team of 160 forensic experts bringing equipment from neighboring provinces has reached the quake-hit regions of Sichuan, said the Ministry of Public Security. They will be divided into 44 teams to assist local forensic workers in recording the corpses and collecting blood samples to help identify the victims, the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. "We brought about 30 digital cameras and we will take photos of every dead victim and every piece of valuable property we find," said Tang Yanfeng, brigadier of an army brigade doing rescue work at Pengzhou, Sichuan.

The photos will be copied on compact discs and handed over to the civil affairs departments.

Family members of many local victims were not able to reach the site and claim the corpses and there were tourists killed in the quake as well, Tang said.

"We hope the last photos of their beloved will comfort them a bit."

The death toll from the 8.0-magnitude earthquake had risen to more than 40,000 by Tuesday evening.

The task of identifying and handling the dead remained tough though the Ministry of Civil Affairs said 80 percent of the corpses in Sichuan have been buried or cremated.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs, together with the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Health, issued guidance to speed up the identification and handling of the dead to avoid decomposing bodies from contaminating areas where survivors are staying.

For the deceased who are believed to be foreign citizens, the state-run China Funeral Association will take charge of, disinfect and retain the bodies. Relatives can contact the association through http://bzxh.mca.gov.cn.

(Xinhua News Agency May 20, 2008)

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