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January 15, 2010

Update on Scale of Haiti Disaster

The death toll from the massive earthquake in the capital Port-au-Prince could reach 200,000, Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime says.

"We have already collected around 50,000 dead bodies. We anticipate there will be between 100,000 and 200,000 dead in total, although we will never know the exact number," the minister said.

The security situation is deteriorating and United States authorities are preparing for the possibility of rioting.
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There is also the risk of a disease outbreak.

Many believe the Haitian population is especially vulnerable. The country has long suffered from high rates of malnutrition, and less than half the population has any access to drinking water at the best of times. There was no public sewage system even before the earthquake. Nearly 200,000 Haitians have HIV or AIDS, and just half the childhood population is vaccinated against basic diseases like diphtheria.

Avril Benoît, director of communications for Médicin sans frontières Canada said yesterday that despite Haiti’s fragile state, the spread of disease was not an immediate threat.

“We are always concerned about it, keeping an eye on it,” she told reporters. “There is no question that clean drinking water is a priority right now, but risks of disease spreading are seldom seen.”

Haiti has a population of just under 10 million and Port au Prince the devasted capital has a population of about 3 million.

If the 200,000 figure proves to be accurate that would be 2% of the population of Haiti killed in the earthquake and over 6% of the capital of Port au Prince.

The New York Post reports of fears of the Haiti death toll reach half a million (500,000). If the 500,000 figure happens, then Haiti would have nearly 1% of 55 million deaths that typically occur worldwide in one year.

Whole shantytowns had slid off the side of hilltops, and even the mightiest of buildings -- including several hospitals, the presidential palace and the United Nations headquarters -- had fallen like houses of cards

Officials said they feared it could rise to a staggering 500,000, although they cautioned those figures were highly speculative.

"I don't know," Preval told CNN when asked how many were killed.



Groups of men with machetes roved the ruins seeking supplies of food or water; others used corpses as roadblocks, a macabre sign that the capital had reached breaking point after four days of apocalyptic scenes.



Wikipedia has a list of earthquakes by death toll

List of deadly earthquakes since 1900 at wikipedia



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