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Thursday, January 21, 2010
U.N. says final death toll of Haiti earthquake might never be known - washingtonpost.com
"Haitian officials estimated Wednesday that the death toll might reach between 100,000 and 150,000 and that 70,000 bodies have already been buried in mass graves. But U.N. officials say the numbers are at best a guess. The grim process of counting the dead has been complicated by the breakdown of government institutions, including the collapse of hospitals and morgues. Many people are still buried under collapsed homes, hotels and government buildings, making a final count premature. "People are still being pulled out of the rubble, extraordinarily," said John Holmes, U.N. emergency relief coordinator. He noted that foreign rescue teams had pulled more than 120 people out alive from collapsed buildings. "And we'll continue with that as long as there is any hope of finding people alive." Even measuring the United Nations' dead has been a struggle. For several days, it declined to provide details about its deceased staff, leaving it to governments to confirm the deaths of their nationals. U.N. officials said their caution was driven by a concern that families first be notified of a loved one's death and that no mistakes be made. Other officials say the United Nations has been especially cautious about releasing the names of their dead because of previous mistakes. After the 2003 suicide attack against U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 U.N. officials and guests, at least one staffer who survived was reported dead. "