Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health on Thursday revised down the death toll in the serial blasts that struck the country on April 21 by over 100, to 253.
Officials had initially said that at least 359 people had died and more than 500 were injured in the serial blasts that struck the country on Easter Sunday.
But Dr. Anil Jasinghe, the director general of health services in Sri Lanka, said they had reached a larger toll because of a calculation error.
“The approximate total of the dead would be 253 and not 359 as reported in media,” Jasinghe said. He added that 485 people were initially admitted to hospitals across the country. But by 10 am on Thursday, only 149 were still undergoing treatment.
The Health Ministry said many of the bodies were severely mutilated and had been double-counted, according to AFP. The toll released by the police was reduced by 106 after the autopsies were completed by late Thursday.
“As it was not easy to count the correct number of dead due to extensive damages suffered in some cases, the figures issued [on April 22] were all approximate numbers,” Jaisinghe said.
He admits “there are so many body parts it is difficult to give a precise figure.”
He said: “It could be 250 or 260. I can’t exactly say. There are so many body parts and it is difficult to give a precise figure.”
As a result of the terrorist attacks which occurred over last few days, over 485 casualties were admitted to the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Colombo North Teaching Hospital, Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital, Teaching Hospital Batticaloa and District General Hospital Negombo.
By 10am yesterday (25), the number of casualties following the above incidents under care in hospitals has reduced to 149.Out of the total of 485 casualties admitted, only around six deaths have occurred following admission to hospitals, which is a point to be proud of the health service of Sri Lanka even at this unfortunate moment. This fact has been praised by foreign media.
On 22nd April, the number of deaths from the attack was reported as 280. The composition of the deaths was as 29 at Teaching Hospital Batticaloa, 102 at District General Hospital Negombo, 07 at Colombo North Teaching Hospital, 03 at Colombo South Teaching Hospital and 140 at the Mortuary of the Chief Judicial Medical Officer of Colombo.
During bomb explosions like these, some bodies of the deceased are gravely damaged while some are severed into body parts which cannot be identified as complete bodies. Since there was a difficulty in counting the exact number of dead bodies, the number of deaths was reported as an approximate figure daily.
The dead bodies were handed over to the relatives very fast in all hospitals except at the Mortuary of the Chief Judicial Medical Officer of Colombo. Even in the Mortuary of the Chief Judicial Medical Officer of Colombo, Consultant Judicial Medical Officers, Magistrates,and other staff are on duty round the clock, however, due to the complex nature of the dead bodies brought here, relatively extended periods are needed to release these dead bodies to the relatives. Reasons for delay could be attributed to dead bodies of all foreign nationals being brought here and the extent of the severing of bodiesto pieces being relatively more following hotel attacks in the three hotels in Colombo. Also, the relatives of the foreign nationals should come from overseas to handover the bodies; If not the bodies need to be identified by the Embassies of the relevant countries. Further, determination of the dead body being of a foreign national or not could be done by the skin color. However, this could not be done precisely for the dead bodies of persons of Asian origin.
Under these circumstances, correcting the initial estimates done at the Mortuary of the Colombo Chief Judicial Medical Officer, the number of dead bodies has reduced to 114 as per yesterday (25). Further, the initial number of dead bodies was 29 at the Teaching Hospital Batticaloa. Nevertheless, this has finally reduced to 26, due to the same reasons. These are technical corrections under the circumstances.
Therefore, as per yesterday (25), the number of persons who died following last Sunday attacks are around 253. Hence, the number of deaths has reduced to 253 from our initial estimate of 290, in contrast to the 359 dead bodies reported by media. The Ministry of Health never reported death toll as 359.
Dr. Anil Jasinghe
Director General of Health Services