From the NY Times:
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Dr. Alix Lassegue, the physician who runs this city’s largest hospital, including its morgue, has been trying to figure out how many people died after the earth buckled so violently last week.
Unlike most of the rough figures bandied about, Dr. Lassegue’s are based on actual calculations. Standing amid the frenzy of patients being treated in every direction, he jotted down a few numbers with a pen.
The asphalt grounds in front of the morgue are roughly 1,000 square yards, with each body occupying about one square meter. Trucks have carted away the dead 10 times, which means about 10,000 bodies removed for burial.
“This, too, is not a perfect count,” Dr. Lassegue said. “But it is the best that I can arrive at given our current limitations. We must not attach ourselves to wild estimates, but try to get at the best figures possible.”
Wild estimates are not hard to find. Steps away, where morgue employees were cleaning the asphalt with hoses and brooms, one employee said 75,000 bodies had passed through; a second said 50,000; a third, 25,000.
The simple truth is that no accurate figure exists. In disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran, the toll habitually swings way up at first, taking a couple of weeks to settle at a final, accepted number.