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Indonesia adds 70,000 to death toll

By Associated Press
Published January 20, 2005

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia's Health Ministry declared Wednesday that more than 70,000 people previously listed as missing are dead, significantly raising its estimate for the death toll from last month's tsunami.

If confirmed, the overall tsunami death toll in 11 countries would climb to over 221,100, including 166,320 in Indonesia.

However, the Health Ministry's count differed sharply from other Indonesian government tallies. The Social Affairs Ministry has been keeping a count that on Wednesday stood at 114,978 dead and 12,132 missing.

Officials have frequently cautioned that compiling accurate figures for the dead or missing is almost impossible and that a definitive death toll may never be reached.

The Associated Press has used the Social Affairs Ministry count for its tally of the dead. The total death toll compiled by AP from governments in each country is at least 162,228. The United Nations on Tuesday listed the number of dead in the Dec. 26 disaster at 165,493.

At an international disaster conference in Kobe, Japan, the U.N. humanitarian chief said the United Nations should take the lead in creating a tsunami early-warning system in the Indian Ocean, similar to the one that exists in the Pacific.

Startup costs could come from money already pledged, said Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs.

[Last modified January 20, 2005, 00:13:15]

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