JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia's Health Ministry said yesterday that more than 70,000 people previously listed as missing are dead, significantly raising its estimate for the death toll from last month's tsunami.
If confirmed, the overall tsunami death toll in 11 countries would climb to more than 221,100, including 166,320 dead in Indonesia.
However, the Health Ministry's count differed sharply from other Indonesian government tallies. The Social Affairs Ministry has been keeping a count that stood yesterday at 114,978 dead and 12,132 missing.
Officials have frequently cautioned that compiling accurate figures for the dead or missing is almost impossible and that a definitive death toll might never be reached.
The Associated Press has used the Social Affairs Ministry count for its tally of the dead. The total death toll compiled by AP from governments in each country is at least 162,228. 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 released tolls of 38,195 and 30,920, respectively. The Associated Press total is based on the disaster center's number.
Meanwhile, eager to show Indonesia will use international aid responsibly and take a firm stand against corruption, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said the government had recently appointed the accounting firm Ernst & Young to track donations.
Foreign governments and international agencies have pledged about $4 billion in aid to the region. Indonesia, whose officials are often accused of corruption and misuse of public funds, is expected to get the largest chunk.
''There is no need to be suspicious of Indonesia's management of funds," Wirayuda said. ''It is in our interest that the money is managed in a transparent and accountable way."
Local anti-graft activists have said they fear about 30 percent of the aid money projected to be spent on Indonesia's recovery could be stolen -- about the same amount they estimate disappears each year from the national government's budget.
Japan issued a brief tsunami warning after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck off its eastern coast. But officials said the waves generated were less than a foot high and posed little danger to Japan's isles.
By contrast, the waves triggered by last month's earthquake rose as high as 30 feet.
A false tsunami alarm in the Chilean city of Concepcion sent thousands of people fleeing their homes Monday in a chaotic stampede in the middle of the night. Authorities were still seeking clues on how the panic started.
At an international disaster conference in Kobe, Japan, the UN humanitarian chief said the United Nations should take the lead in creating a tsunami early-warning system in the Indian Ocean, similar to the one that exists in the Pacific and was used to sound the alarm in Japan yesterday.
Startup costs could come from money already pledged, said Jan Egeland, UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs.
However, the United States voiced doubts about the United Nation's ability to run such a program. The United Nations ''has to prove it has the capacity to do so," said Mark Lagon, US deputy assistant secretary of state. ''There's no substitute for the will of the nations with the resources and the technology."