Catastrophe's Uncertain Death Toll Over 100,000

Rescuers look for survivors at Yala Reserve Wildlife Park, 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004. Wild life officials expressed surprise Wednesday that they found no evidence of large-scale animal deaths fromthe weekend's massive tsunami, indicating that animals may have sensed the wave coming and fled to higher ground. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

At least 121,519 people are reported dead around southern Asia and as far away as Somalia on Africa's eastern coast, most killed by massive tsunamis that smashed coastlines after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Indonesia's coast on Sunday.

But officials say the estimates of those killed are very uncertain.

"It is very difficult to predict the final toll,'' said Dody Budiatman, coordinator of relief efforts for the government in Jakarta. "We could search in small boats, but considering the numbers it would be very difficult.''

Officials have even admitted they aren't sure how many corpses they've buried. One way to estimate the total has been to take the number of bodies in one mass grave and multiply it by the number of graves. In other cases, they estimate the population of a village, count the survivors and assume the rest have been killed.

Death tolls by country, as of Friday:

  • Indonesia: 80,246.
  • Sri Lanka: 28,508.
  • India: 7,763
  • Thailand: 4,560
  • Somalia: 200.
  • Myanmar: 90.
  • Maldives: 73.
  • Malaysia: 66.
  • Tanzania: 10.
  • Bangladesh: 2.
  • Kenya: 1.

Tsunami are sometimes called tidal waves. They are more like tidal surges, and they soar upon reaching land.

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