A seasoned geophysicist has predicted that the death toll from Nepal’s massive earthquake could exceed 57,000 — which is already over ten times the official government count, the New York Times reports.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck west of the ancient Nepali capital of Kathmandu last Saturday, destroying parts of a major historic center and triggering an avalanche on Mount Everest that left more than a dozen people dead.
The official death toll of just over 5,000 is much lower than the tens of thousands that has been predicted by emergency response groups.
The times reports that geophysicist Max Wyss — who often provides emergency aid agencies and nonprofit groups with initial death and damage estimates — noticed the gap andcalculated that the death toll must actually be closer to 57,700.
Wyss arrived at this figure by comparing the earthquake’s motion to maps of population density in the region.
“There is just no escaping the fact there are so many people in a strongly shaken area,” Wyss told the Times.
Roger Bilham, one of the world’s leading seismologists, told the Times that Wyss has a strong track record, but he estimate for Nepal could be off by a factor of two: “That would mean no less than 25,000 deaths, and possibly substantially more than the midpoint of 57,700,”the Times notes.
In any case, it appears that their were far more victims than anyone realises.
“Three days after the disaster struck, Nepalese officials still believe that only 10,000 may have died,” Wyss wrote in a science journal last weekend, “when it will most likely turn out to have been a multiple of this number.”
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