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US government report questions death toll from Haitian earthquake

A draft report suggests that the official death roll was between 46,000 and 85,000 – less than the Haitian tally of 250,000.

A municipal worker carries away a tent used by a family during an eviction at an earthquake displaced camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A municipal worker carries away a tent used by a family during an eviction at an earthquake displaced camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Image: Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

A DRAFT REPORT commissioned by the US government has cast doubts over the accuracy of Haiti’s estimates of the numbers killed in last year’s earthquake – suggesting that the real death toll could be 80 per cent lower than official estimates.

The report prepared for the US Agency for International Development, which has been obtained by AFP ahead of its official publication, suggests that the official tally of 250,000 may have been a drastic overestimation of the true number of casualities.

“The number of fatalities that resulted from the earthquake is estimated at [somewhere from] 46,190 to 84,961,” the report estimates, while also querying the UN’s figures that the quake had left 680,000 people homeless.

The lowered estimate of the number of casualties, though, still estimates that 2.2 per cent of the country’s population were killed by the disaster on 13 January last year.

The figures were compiled through a comprehensive door-to-door survey carried out by the agency over 29 days in January of this year.

While the office of Haitian president Michel Martelly declined to comments on its findings, a government spokesman questioned why anyone would doubt the official Haitian estimates.

“The official figures remain the same. It’s surprising that we would talk about new figures now,” the spokesman told AFP.

Another government minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was “curious” that new figures would be compiled over a year after the disaster struck.

AP quoted a US government source as suggesting that the report would not be given a full, official publication until a number of inconsistencies had been addressed.

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Gavan Reilly

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