(photo credit: AP)
Israeli efforts to help identify the victims of the Phuket plane crash were reinforced by the arrival of an Israel Police forensic team in Thailand Monday, joining ZAKA (Disaster Victims Identification) and Magen David Adom (MDA) delegations.
The eight members of the police team are expected to land in Phuket Tuesday morning.
"As long as the Israel Police forensic team is not identifying the bodies with the help of the DNA samples they have taken with them from the family members before flying to Thailand, we won't be able to know for sure who was on that plane," said Michal Haim, a spokeswoman for the Israel Police's investigations and intelligence department.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Nechemia Wilhelm, a Chabad emissary in Bangkok, flew to Phuket on Monday to assist the rescue teams who were trying to identify the bodies in the airport.
"The Thais put the bodies in cooling rooms during the night and brought the bodies to one of the airport halls where rescue teams from all over the world and from Thailand are trying to identify them," Wilhelm said. "This is a difficult scene for everyone."
Even though ZAKA had already identified two of the bodies, final confirmation would have to wait until the police team arrived, he added.
"It's harder to welcome the family members at the airport who arrive here with some hope in their eyes, waiting to hear that their relatives are not among the dead," Wilhelm said. "We just want to finish the identifying work as soon as possible and send the bodies to Israel for burial."
ZAKA has four volunteers at the Thai airport, including a Jew who was in the region. According to ZAKA in Jerusalem, some of the bodies were burned, making identification more difficult.
"Our aim is to bring the Israelis to a Jewish grave," the ZAKA spokesman said.
The MDA team is headed by paramedic Dudi Abadi and includes paramedic Asi Divlanski. Abadi is caring for worried relatives of three of the eight Israeli missing and is in constant touch with the local Red Cross and the Israel Embassy.
A special MDA emergency number, (03) 535-0053, received more than 80 calls from worried relatives on Monday, according to Ido Rosenblatt, who was on duty. He said he hoped the MDA team could return before Yom Kippur, but was not sure if they would.