New York City changes method for reporting trade center toll to improve accuracy

Saturday, November 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ The official toll of dead and missing at the World Trade Center dropped sharply as city officials implemented a new _ and, they hope, more accurate _ system for calculating the figure.

The toll, which includes people on the ground and those aboard the two hijacked planes that hit the twin towers, stood at 3,646 on Friday. That number reflects a drop of more than 250 from the beginning of the week _ and a drop of close to 3,000 from estimates in September.

The city's new calculation method relies strictly on death certificates and a list of missing persons to avoid duplications in the list.

``What the new numbers basically do is to try to simplify it,'' Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Friday.

As of Friday, the medical examiner's office had issued 443 death certificates based on identifications made from remains found in the wreckage and 1,820 for people who were presumed dead but whose bodies had not been found.

The remaining 1,383 people in the official toll are listed simply as missing. That number is expected to drop as death certificates are issued and errors in the tally are resolved.

The police department will maintain the missing persons list, as it has since the attacks, said Richard Sheirer, director of the Office of Emergency Management.

Previously, there had been a disparity between the city's official tally and the one maintained by the city's medical examiner. This was because the city was using a ``police standard,'' in which remains could be identified if they were found with clothing or an identification card, while the medical examiner relied on scientific evidence.

Now, the city will no longer use the police standard for the official tally, Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Antenen said.

Independent tallies maintained by news organizations have consistently been lower than the city's toll. An ongoing Associated Press tally of people confirmed dead and those reported dead or missing stood at 2,772 on Friday.

The AP figure is derived from information provided by the medical examiner, those declared dead by a court, funeral homes, places of worship, death notices, employers, public agencies, families and the AP's foreign bureaus.