Uttrakhand Disaster: Status of Disaster Victim Identification in India

Review Article

Austin J Forensic Sci Criminol. 2014;1(1): 4.

Uttrakhand Disaster: Status of Disaster Victim Identification in India

Tayal Ishwer1, Puri Pooja Malik2*, Iqbal Mohammad3, Grover Maneel4 and Prakash Chandra5

1,5Department of Forensic Medicine, Government Medical College, India

2,3Amity University, India

4Tooth SpotTM Clinical & Forensic Dentistry Centre, India

*Corresponding author: Puri Pooja Malik, Department of Forensic Medicine, Government Medical College, Haldwani, India

Received: September 05, 2014; Accepted: October 27, 2014; Published: October 29, 2014


The identification of dead is imperative in society not only for humanitarian reasons but also from legal point of view. A large number of disaster victims go unidentified every year where the human remains are destroyed beyond recognition. The aim of this article is to focus on the aspects of the preparedness, readiness and the role of Indian forensic professionals towards the Disaster Victim Identification. The present case study is about the flash flood disaster due to sudden cloud burst in Uttrakhand, India 2013, the deployment of Forensic Experts at ground zero and their work regarding searching and management of dead victims to aid their identification.

Keywords: Disaster management; Victim identification; Forensic odontology


Disaster is defined by World Health Organization as “A sudden ecologic phenomenon of sufficient magnitude to require external assistance. ” [1] or “A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing wide spread human, material, economic or environmental losses which exceeds the ability of affected community or society to cope using its own resources[2]”. It is state of extreme hazard and misfortune having tragic consequences involving loss of life and structure. It is the situation which causes physical, mental and social harm to the society. It creates such a situation which confronts a challenge to the nation to curb it, thus always remains a threat [3].

In order to respond the disaster, every nation develops the programme and emergency management system with the aim of proactive action and post active reaction towards the disasters like floods, earthquake, tsunami, terrorist activities etc. The proactive actions are to adopt holistic and integrated approach with the emphasis on plan, prepare and prevention in the pre disaster phase, while as the post active reaction covers the field of emergency assistance, rehabilitation relief, long-term maintenance and disaster victim identification [4-6].

Disaster Management in India

Disaster profile of india

India is the country which lies in the South Asia, largely on the Indian plate. The continental crust of northern section of Indo- Australian plate forms Indian sub-continent. It is located north of the equator between 8°4’ and 37°6’ north latitude and 68°7’ and 97°25’ east longitude [7]. It is surrounded by Arabian Sea, The Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal on three sides. India is traditionally endangered to disasters due to its geo-climate & geo-physical conditions [8]. The disasters to which India is always prone are either natural (caused by the natural processes of earth) or man-made (induced by human intentionally or unintentionally) and sometimes combination of both. According to the Report of National Policy on Disaster Management 2009, by Government of India, “About 58.6% of landmass of India is vulnerable to Earthquake with varying Intensity on Richter scale. Over 40 million hectare (12%) of land total land mass is under threat to floods and river erosions, out of about 7516 km; 5700 km long coastline is prone to tsunamis, storms and cyclones [6].”

Disaster management policy

On 23 December, 2005 the Government of India took the step towards the response of disaster (Earthquake 2001 Bhuj Gujarat, & tsunami 2004 Tamil Nadu),by enacting the Disaster Management Act ,2005which lead to the creation of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), guided by the Prime Minister, and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) guided by respective Chief Ministers. The main policy of NDMA is to, “To build a safer and disaster resilient India by developing a holistic, pro-active, multi-disaster and technology-driven strategy for disaster management through collective efforts of all Government Agencies and Non- Governmental Organizations [5]”.

The uttrakhand disaster (Himalayan Tsunami)

Uttrakhand State also called as the “Dev Bhumi’ or the “Land of Gods” and is in northern part of India [9]. This state receives large number of pilgrims during the summer months since it is a very important Hindu as well as Sikh pilgrimage. Being a hill state and home to many beautiful hill stations, it also attracts large number of tourists. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, rainfall in Uttarakhand during the week of 17th to 26th June 2013 had been in excess by 37 per cent of normal rainfall. During this period, the state received 73.3 centimeters of rain while the normal rainfall is usually 53.6 centimeters [10,11].

On 17th June 2013, the Mandakini & Alaknanda Valley of Garhwal and Saryu & Kali Ganga valley of Kumaon Himalaya received a heavy downpour and the cloudburst resulted in flash flood which was further intensified by the outburst of Besoka Lake, thus caused a huge devastation [12,13]. The heavy rains in the region have led to extensive flooding, landslides and destruction to property and lives (Figure 1,2). The flow in the Mandakini and Alaknanda rivers hit the areas of Sacred Temple of Kedarnath and Badrinath [14].