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Updated: February 11, 2010 10:04 IST

Haiti raises quake death toll to 217,000

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A woman carries rice bag during a food distribution operation in Port-au-Prince.
A woman carries rice bag during a food distribution operation in Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian government said the death toll in last month’s earthquake had risen to 217,000, backtracking from conflicting earlier statements of even higher totals.

“There are people that say in the January 12 earthquake 230,000 people died,” Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime said on Wednesday. “We say it is a little more than 217,000. These are the correct numbers.” Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive had said the death toll was 212,000, but then government figures unexpectedly jumped to 270,000 before being corrected Wednesday.

The exact death toll in the magnitude-7 quake would likely never be known because many people were buried in mass graves and bodies still remain under the rubble.

The United Nations said Wednesday in Port-au-Prince that 1.2 million Haitians remained homeless from the quake and 460,000 have left the capital for the provinces. The World Food Programme is distributing aid to 1.1 million people.

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