exercises in compound storytelling

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haitian death tolls (3)

Map of Haiti with Port-au-Prince shownImage via Wikipedia

The Haitian earthquake was a week ago, and while secondary effects of the earthquake (civil unrest, impact of breakdown of infrastructure, etc.) are starting to make the news, the death toll numbers are still all over the place:
The first article mentions the difficulty of getting accurate counts, and notes that while estimates are 50 000 and 100 000, the confirmed count is "in the hundreds" whatever that means. The second article mentions three estimates: 30 000, 50 000, and 100 000, with the two lower numbers coming from a United Nations official rather than Haitian officials.

The first article includes two examples of death tolls vs. their initial estimates, one from a somewhat similar disaster: the 2003 Bam, Iran earthquake. That earthquake was magnitude 6.6, had initial death toll estimates of 41 000, but was eventually revised down to 26 271 killed, 30 000 injured, 100 000 displaced due to high building collapse rates in the Bam metropolitan area. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was much larger, with something like a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and deaths in 14 countries, but most of the deaths were due to the tsunami, so it's hard to make a fair comparison here.
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