AP Wrong on Deaths in Indian Deaths in Dam Break


The 'Report on Accuracy and The Associated Press' contained this UPI note about the death toll reporting from an August 1979 dam break in India


Tragedy in India

On Aug. 11, 1979, a dam burst in a remote area of western India.

UPI's first stories reported an estimated death toll of 1,000. We also noted lower in the story there were unofficial reports of as many as 5,000 dead.

AP's first stories emphasized the unofficial reports of 5,000 deaths.

During the next several days, UPI stuck consistently with the estimate of 1,000 dead. Some stories on Aug. 14 quoted one of numerous relief and government officials as saying the toll could reach 10,000. This estimate was not prominently mentioned. AP, on the same day, prominently reported unofficial estimates in the 20,000 to 25,000 range. The backed down the following day iwth other officials say these figures were "exaggerated."

At the end of the week, Aug. 18, AP was back to slightly more than 1,000 deahs. They continued to make mention of "as many as 20,000" who might have died.

The official toll stood at about 1,200 a week after the tragedy. That's where it remained when UPI checked back a month later.