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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Indonesia's Health Ministry on Wednesday declared as dead more than 70,000 people previously listed as missing, significantly raising its estimate for the death toll from last month's tsunami.
If confirmed, the Health Ministry count would bring the number of dead in Indonesia to 166,320 -- and the overall toll in 11 countries to as many as 221,100 dead from the Dec. 26 disaster.
But the ministry's number differed sharply from others released by the Indonesian government. The Social Affairs Ministry has been keeping a count that on Wednesday stood at 114,978 dead and 12,132 missing.
The Associated Press has used the Social Affairs Ministry count for its tally of the tsunami dead. The total compiled by AP from governments in each country is at least 162,228 dead.
The United Nations on Tuesday listed the number of dead in the Dec. 26 disaster at 165,493.
Indonesia is not the only country suffering from confusion in the count. In Sri Lanka, the Public Security Ministry and National Disaster Management Center have put out tolls of 38,195 and 30,920, respectively. The AP total is based on the disaster center's number.
Officials have frequently cautioned that compiling accurate figures for the dead or missing is almost impossible, and that a definitive total of dead may never be reached.
Yusrizal, an official with Indonesia's Health Ministry, said it reached the much higher figure by cross checking numbers at the a government task force center in Banda Aceh, the central point of relief efforts, and the Home Affairs Department. Like many Indonesians, Yusrizal used just one name.
The ministry gave no breakdown of age or gender of the dead.
On Tuesday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered his government's various departments to work together to come up with a definitive death toll. Officials in Yudhoyono's office were not immediately available for comment late Wednesday.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)