NEW YORK (AP) The number of people missing or dead in the September 11 terrorist assault on the World Trade Center has dropped below 3,900, according to the city’s official tally.
The number, which once neared 7,000, has dropped steadily as police eliminate duplicate names and winnow out people who were initially reported missing but turned out to be safe and sound.
Police Chief Charles Campisi, who heads the missing-persons effort, said last month that the number “is in a state of flux and it will continue to be” as detectives pore over the missing person list.
The city’s official count stood at 3,899 yesterday. Of that total, the city reported that 624 bodies have been identified; an additional 3,275 names are on its missing person list. The city has not released a list of names for those still missing.
Other, persistent indicators show the death toll will continue to fall.
Independent tallies maintained by news organizations have stayed well below the city’s official toll. An ongoing Associated Press tally of people confirmed dead and those reported dead or missing at the World Trade Center stood at 2,772 yesterday.
The deaths in the crashes at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania bring the day’s toll to 2,996.
AP’s 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 AP’s foreign bureaus. Both the city’s and the AP’s total for the WTC include the people on the two planes that hit it.
The number of identified dead has risen as forensic pathologists identify more remains. But the city’s number of missing in the attacks has dropped at a faster rate by at least 200 over the last weekend as duplications and errors continue to be resolved.
Throughout the two months since the attacks, the number of missing has jumped, sometimes erratically. The overall count peaked at 6,729 on Sept. 24. But six days later, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani announced that a cross-check of names had eliminated more than 1,000 duplications.
The fluctuation was due in part to the flooding of the police database with missing person reports from a dozen sources, including family members, the Red Cross, airlines, employers and law enforcement agencies. Sometimes names were spelled differently in the various reports. And early on, foreign consulates accounted for much of the overcount, officials have said.
City officials acknowledge that the number of families seeking expedited death certificates has lagged far behind the number of missing. The city has issued 1,893 such certificates; other requests are pending. The expedited procedure is meant to streamline obtaining a death certificate without a body so that families can quickly get life insurance and other such benefits.