We listed all chemicals found on the sites, but most labels were written in Thai or other languages foreign to us. We photographed the labels and showed them to a translator, who contacted the chemical companies to obtain the data sheets.
Geoff Wilding at Takua Pa
Aegis Associates, health and safety advisers to Kenyon International Emergency Services, Inc. Kenyon, in close partnership with the Thai Government, was requested to construct an International Repatriation Centre in the tropical forest not far from Phuket airport, from where it was planned to repatriate individual bodies to their home countries.
This remarkable achievement from virgin tropical forest to an operational unit was completed in less than two weeks. Kenyon were on site at Phuket two days after the disaster, but local authorities were using chemicals to spray the areas where the bodies were being stored, but it was not known what chemicals were being used.
Aegis was asked on 6 January to send
two safety consultants to Phuket, and Aegis contacted Safety UK, with whom they had worked previously, to assist.
Shortly after our arrival we went to the main mortuary at Wat Yan Yo, and the scene was overwhelming – there were 4,500 human remains, most of them stored in refrigerated containers – but more arrived each day.
The site at Wat Yan Yo was a Thai Buddhist temple, and the Thai authorities and the international disaster victims’ identification teams made what adjustments they could to the existing buildings to facilitate the work at hand.
Kenyon personnel played an important role in providing support to the pathologists from the many countries that were completing the autopsies and collecting DNA samples. Luckily, the monsoon weather that was due had not yet arrived,
as it would have made things considerably worse if the mortuary sites had been subject to a deluge of rain.
On the second day we travelled the 175 kilometres to Krabi, another three-hour journey, where about 800 human remains were stored. We located some drums of chemical being used, but it was not the disinfectant Lysol, also known as Dettol in the UK, but Killgerm Lysol, which is made from approximately 50% creosols and 50% caster
oil soap, both of which are toxic substances.
We contacted Killgerm Chemicals, a Yorkshire chemical manufacturer, who informed us that they had stopped making this particular chemical some time ago
due to problems of the supply of the active ingredients, and had not had contact with their agents in Thailand since 1994.
Another issue was that native fauna, which comprises several poisonous snakes and other dangerous creatures, might still try to inhabit the cleared area, particularly at night.
Rabies was also an issue about which Kenyon personnel needed to be aware, due to the large number of feral dogs that inhabit southern Thailand.
On each visit we prepared a detailed report, which included photographic evidence of the problems we had identified. These reports were relayed to the daily Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team meetings of the Thai authorities and those nationalities involved in the relief effort, in an attempt to improve health and safety.
We left Phuket with a sense of achievement, and the knowledge that
we had contributed, albeit in a small way,
to the efforts of the international community providing aid to this devastated area.
Geoff Wilding is Managing Director of AEGIS Associates, based in Herefordshire.
He is a Provincial officer in Hampshire & the Isle of Wight as well as a Herefordshire Mason.
Scenes of devastation after the Tsunami
Web site created by Mark Griffin