Tsunami Death Toll Could Top One Million

Tsunami Toll Jumps to Over 125,000, Fear Lingers (Reuters)

Asia’s tsunami death toll soared above 125,000 on Thursday as millions scrambled for food and clean water and rumors of new giant waves sent many fleeing inland in panic. Aid agencies warned many more, from Indonesia to Sri Lanka, could die in epidemics if shattered communications and transport hampered what may prove history’s biggest relief operation. The death toll had shot up more than 50 percent in a day with still no clear picture of conditions in some remote villages as well as islands around India and Indonesia.

Rescue workers pressed on into isolated villages devastated by a disaster that could yet eclipse a cyclone that struck Bangladesh in 1991, killing 138,000 people.

If this report is correct, sadly, it could dwarf it:

Indonesia Needs Help, Death Toll Expected To Exceed 400,000

The death toll in Acheh, the region worst hit by last Sunday’s tsunami, may exceed 400,000 as many affected areas could still not be reached for search and rescue operations, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Malaysia Drs H. Rusdihardjo said Thursday. He said the estimate was based on air surveillance by Indonesian authorities who found no signs of life in places like Meulaboh, Pulau Simeulue and Tapak Tuan while several islands off the west coast of Sumatera had “disappeared”.

He said the latest death toll of more than 40,000 in Acheh and northern Sumatera did not take into account the figures from the other areas, especially in the west of the region. “Aerial surveillance found the town of Meulaboh completely destroyed with only one buiding standing. The building, which belonged to the military, happens to be on a hill,” he told reporters after receiving RM1 million in aid for Indonesia’s Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund here Thursday. Rusdihardjo said there were about 150,000 residents in Meulaboh, which was located 150km from the epicentre of the earthquake while Pulau Simeuleu had a population of 76,000.

And it could be much worse still:

Is India underestimating its tsunami dead? (India Times)

After the storm comes the deluge of questions. What if the government is understating the scale of the tragedy? How is India going about the woeful task of counting the dead? In turn, how will this affect relief mobilisation and disbursal of financial aid? Already there are indications that the number of dead projected by authorities is way below the reality. Senior officials in Delhi are already admitting that the task before them is very complicated.

Red Cross is estimating the toll could shoot up to 1,00,000 dead (from the present 80,000) in Asia once more information comes in from Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Andamans are situated just north of Sumatra, the epicentre of Sunday’s quake that set off the killer waves.

Residents in several affected areas are already claiming that the number of dead projected by authorities is far way below the reality. A senior official in New Delhi said because of the massive area covered by tsunami and majority being poor arriving at a final accurate figure of casualties is next to impossible. He pointed out that in several instances entire villages have been swept away, with no survivors to even update officials about the tragedy. “In several of these areas there are no ration cards issued, no government records of them,” says a district level official in Tamil Nadu. “We are very sensitive about the complications that could arise because of problems in counting. We are trying our very best to be accurate to the last person,” he added.

But the woeful task of counting the dead is not an easy task. Already in several areas the official number of dead is way below what the locals claim. In Kulachal locality of Kanyakumari district alone local survivors are putting the number of dead at a couple of thousands.

And another headline that they don’t need:

India’s last active volcano erupts on Andamans

India’s last active volcano, in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, has erupted in the aftermath of the huge earthquake that set off tsunamis killing thousands of people, official sources said on Thursday. People have been evacuated from Barren Island since the eruption began on Tuesday night and there were no reports of injury. Lava was flowing out of the rim of the crater which towers above the Indian Ocean some 500 metres (yards) away, the sources said.

Tourists used to visit by boat and the island has a police station. The volcano, known as Barren 1, is located some 135 kilometres (80 miles)northeast of the capital Port Blair, and last erupted in 1996. It runs about 150 fathoms deep under the sea and usually gives off smoke. M.M. Mukherjee of the Geological Survey of India told AFP the volcano presents little real danger. “The risk is minimised because it is surrounded by the sea so if at all there is a lava flow it will roll off into the sea,” he said.

Thank goodness for that.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Lonm says:

    Interesting conservative commentary coming out of the Ayn Rand Institute that Bush and Powell might want to consider:

    “The United States government, however, should not give any money to help the tsunami victims. Why? Because the money is not the government’s to give.

    Every cent the government spends comes from taxation. Every dollar the government hands out as foreign aid has to be extorted from an American taxpayer first.”


  2. bryan says:

    Well, that’s going to go over really well at the UN.

    Every cent the government spends comes from taxation. Every dollar the government hands out as foreign aid has to be extorted from an American taxpayer first.”

    assuming that the taxpayer is being “extorted,” which is pretty big words from an institute that exists thanks to the protections of the U.S. government.

    Perhaps Ayn’s pals would prefer anarchy.