Da The Age del 08/04/2005
Originale su http://www.theage.com.au/news/World/Indonesia-slashes-tsunami-missing-...

Indonesia slashes tsunami missing figures

Jakarta, Indonesia - Indonesian officials have slashed by 60 per cent their estimate of the number of people missing in Aceh province after the Boxing day earthquake and tsunami, because of better data collection.

According to the latest numbers, 37,063 are now listed as missing from 93,458 early this week.

The change largely reflects identification of people listed as missing as actually among those displaced when the quake and the tsunami it triggered destroyed their homes, a spokesman for the government's disaster coordinating operation said today.

The spokesman from Indo Pacific, which handles media relations for the relief effort, said since March 26 there had been a concerted effort to gather and collate identification details of people displaced by the disaster.

Displaced persons "now have to start giving their details and register their contact details ... and that's why the number of missing people has dropped significantly", said the spokesman, who declined to be named.

More than 500,000 people were displaced by the disaster. Though many now live in government or aid organisation-constructed and maintained camps, others stay in ramshackle collections of tents and shacks on hillsides or in forests, or are housed with relatives and friends.

For weeks data updates have said "it is believed that some of those previously thought missing are confirmed dead, are among the IDPs" (displaced persons), or have left Aceh province.

A government disaster centre statement issued yesterday gave a count of 126,915 for those killed by the quake and tsunami, less than 200 more than in a statement on Tuesday, when the count of those missing had still been 93,458.

Since December's Indian Ocean quake sent a tsunami crashing onto the shores of Aceh in Indonesia's far northwest, smashing to bits homes and buildings, estimates of the missing and dead varied widely, especially in the first few weeks after the disaster.

The government then switched to a conservative approach in its count of the dead, listing only the number of bodies recovered and buried. It has been less clear about how it arrived at estimates of the missing.

Many bodies were washed out to sea by the giant waves, while others are unlikely ever to be recovered from the tonnes of debris left behind, meaning the precise death toll from the disaster will probably never be known.

In a recent example of difficulty in calculating disaster casualties, government official figures have put deaths from a March 28 quake that hit islands off northern Sumatra in the hundreds, while Indonesia's vice president and other government and aid agency representatives have said the toll could reach into the thousands.

Indonesia is a sprawling archipelago with many isolated areas where limited communications and infrastructure can make gathering data a challenge under the best of circumstances.

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