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Tuesday 28 December 2004

A Third of the Dead Are Said to Be Children

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Dec. 28 - Survivors of the gigantic undersea earthquake on Sunday that swallowed coastlines from Indonesia to Africa - which officials now describe as one of the worst natural disasters in recent history - recovered bodies today, hurriedly arranged for mass burials and searched for tens of thousands of the missing in countries thousands of miles apart.

The reported deaths from the disaster - which climbed today to about 44,000, with many still unaccounted for, as Sri Lanka and Indonesia increased their confirmed tolls - came into sharper relief on a day when it seemed increasingly clear that at least a third of the dead were children, according to estimates by aid officials.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and government officials here, as well as those in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, the Maldives and as far away as Somalia, warned that with hundreds of thousands of people stranded in the open without clean drinking water, epidemics of cholera and other waterborne diseases could take as many lives as the initial waves.

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