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Report: Haitian death toll may be unknown

Sgt. Matthew White with the Black Falcon battalion of the 82nd Army Airborne talks to the leader of a refugee camp during an assessment visit in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 27, 2010. Haiti continues to suffer after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the country on January 12. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
Sgt. Matthew White with the Black Falcon battalion of the 82nd Army Airborne talks to the leader of a refugee camp during an assessment visit in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 27, 2010. Haiti continues to suffer after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the country on January 12. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, March 3 (UPI) -- The number of people killed by the 7-magnitude earthquake in Haiti may never be known because the government didn't keep a count, officials said.

Since the earthquake struck Jan. 12, Haitian officials haven't provided an accurate accounting of the number of victims buried in mass graves around the countryside, The Miami Herald reported Wednesday. Tens of thousands of people were buried in the makeshift graves by government workers.

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Estimates provided by the Haitian government ranged from 100,000 to 270,000 in the days following the earthquake, but the numbers cannot be verified, several people told the Miami newspaper.

Establishing an accurate death count is important for several reasons, including quantifying the human loss, providibng a historical context and resolving confusion over the varying death counts, the Herald said.

Assad Volcy, a spokesman for the National Palace, said more than 200,000 Haitians were buried in common graves, based on a formula officials use to estimate how many quake victims have been buried.

Asked about the many conflicting figures the Haitian government released after the earthquake, Volcy said the figures reflected the estimates as determined by the unexplained formula.

"There has been no confusion," he said. "Perhaps there was an error, but our estimates have been based on a formula to estimate numbers."

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