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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Human tsunami cost is beyond count

January 21, 2005

ALMOST four weeks after the tsunamis, the governments of Indonesia and Sri Lanka are unable to agree on the number of people killed in their countries.

The confusion illustrates the difficulties faced by both nations as they struggle to recover from the waves, which swept countless bodies out to sea on Boxing Day.

It also makes estimating an overall death toll for the 11 Indian Ocean countries affected by the disaster problematic.

Indonesian's health ministry yesterday said more than 70,000 people previously listed as missing were now considered to have died, bringing the number killed in Indonesia to 166,320 and the overall toll in 11 countries to as much as 221,100.

A separate count by the Social Affairs Ministry put the toll at 114,978 with some 24,000 missing.


Both departments yesterday stood by the figures, which they said were based on reports from officials on the affected island of Sumatra and estimates based on census figures and the numbers of people unaccounted for.

A spokesman for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who on Tuesday ordered the agencies to come up with a definite tally, was unable to clear up the confusion.

"I am not able to tell you if the President endorses the health ministry figure," said Dino Djalal. "To be honest, we don't have a set number, and we don't think we will ever know the exact tally."

A similar discrepancy between two government agencies exists in Sri Lanka.

The Public Security Ministry announced on Monday that it counted 38,195 people who died in the tsunamis - 7275 more than the number cited by the National Disaster Management Centre, which stuck by its total of 30,920.

Experts were scheduled to meet on Wednesday to try and resolve the stalemate.

Federal Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd met Australian aid workers and troops in Indonesia yesterday.

He discussed the security situation in Aceh with Indonesian commander Brigadier General Bambang Darwono, including the effectiveness of existing security arrangements.

"He [Brig Gen Darwono] is confident that those arrangements are still sufficient," Mr Rudd said. "That is a view also put to me by Australian officials.

"This is a matter of continuing interest back home, as it should be. They are going to have those arrangements under continuing review."

Mr Rudd said he was greatly impressed by Australian and New Zealand personnel in Aceh.

"It makes you proud to be an Australian to see what they are doing in Australia and New Zealand's name right now in Indonesia's time of need," he said.

The Daily Telegraph

The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity. ~ Arthur J. Balfour




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