Tsunami deathtoll still rising

2005-04-08 08:23

Jakarta - The Indonesian government has lowered the number of people missing after the December 26 earthquake and tsunami by more than 56 000, saying most of them have been found alive in emergency camps.

The National Disaster Relief Coordinating Board, which has been keeping the most detailed tally of victims among several government agencies doing a count, on Thursday reduced the number of missing from 93 458 to 37 063.

The agency said the number of dead had climbed by 174, to 126 915.

"Some of those previously thought missing are confirmed dead, are among the internally displaced or have left Aceh," the agency said in a statement.

Explaining the sudden jump in the number of people accounted for, an official said that authorities have been continually registering missing people who were turning up alive, but had not reported the tallies daily during the last three weeks.

They decided to release the figures on Thursday after local officials signed off on the tally, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Social Affairs Ministry, which had been keeping its own count, said on Friday it still has 113 937 people listed as missing. But the ministry concedes the figure is probably inaccurate because it stopped updating its figures in late February. It lists 123 537 people killed.

The disaster relief board official said the government hopes to arrive at a definitive death toll figure in about two months.

The disaster caused massive damage over a huge area, and victims' remains are still being discovered in the rubble. Thousands of others were washed out to sea.

Aceh was hardest hit by the disaster because it was closest to the epicentre of the magnitude-9.0 quake that triggered massive waves and killed more than 173 000 people in 11 nations.

The government has said that most of those still unaccounted for are feared dead, but can't be legally declared so for a year.

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