Comparing atrocities
Posted by aogThursday, 07 July 2005 at 17:57 TrackBack Ping URL

I have, of course, been following the terror attacks in London. Other weblogs are covering this in depth, so I won’t go in to that. My sympathies for the victims and burning wrath for the perpetrators.

One thing that I found interesting, however, was based on comparisons between this attack and the 11 Sep 2001 attacks in the USA and confusion about the word “casualty”. Quite a lot of webloggers and news reports are using this as a synonymn for “fatality”, which is quite wrong. This leads to comparing the wounded and injured from the London attack to the fatalities from the World Trade Center / Pentagon attacks, which are not at all the same thing.

As a result, I tried to find the number of casualties from the WTC/P attacks, which turned out to be difficult. The only data I could find was this, which claims 2261 casualties (excluding fatalities). It just seems odd that compilations of statistics like this don’t have any information on casualties. Reports on the 1993 WTC attack (like this) commonly make at least a rough estimate of casualties (1,000 is the standard number). That’s not the case for pages about the 11 Sep attacks.

Beyond that, the 11 Sep attacks seem to be a strong outlier in the ratio of dead to injured, roughly 1.3. Current reports from London are 1000 casualties and 72 dead, or a ratio of 0.072. Bus bombings in Israel tend to be in the same ballpark (0.25, 0.22). The Bali attack was closer, with 202 dead and around 3001 injured. Interestingly, Wikipedia reports the injured for this attack and for the Madrid bombings (with a ratio of 0.11), but not for the 11 Sep attacks.

The reason for the difference in the relative deadliness of the 11 Sep attacks is obvious. Is it also the reason that it is reported differently? I have no idea.

1 This number must be considered unreliable, as it is just the concensus figure for numbers that vary greatly between different sources. None that I found had fewer casualties than fatalities, however.