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U.S. whittles down number of missing

Inquiries about more than 2,000 Americans unaccounted for after the tsunami remain unresolved, the State Department said Thursday.

Twelve days after the disaster it was not clear how many Americans were actually missing and how many had failed to get in touch with U.S. embassies or relatives and friends.

"I don't know how long it will take us to work our way through the list," said Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs. "What I can guarantee you is we will not stop until everything that is knowable is known to us."

Seventeen Americans are confirmed dead, and 18 are considered missing and presumed dead in Thailand and Sri Lanka, deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.

At the beginning of the week the department was faced with 6,000 inquiries about Americans who were not accounted for. That number was reduced to 2,377 by Thursday night.

In Congress . . .

DONATION DEDUCTIONS: Taxpayers making donations this month to aid the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami will be able to claim deductions on their 2004 tax returns under legislation passed by Congress on Thursday.

The bill sent to President Bush was aimed at encouraging private donations to the tsunami relief effort. Under current law, taxpayers would have had to wait until next year to claim a tax deduction for contributions made this month.

It passed both the House and Senate by voice vote.

WARNING NETWORK: Congress will consider a $30-million network of buoys, wave gauges and seismic sensors to warn of tsunamis globally, a plan that would build on U.S. and international efforts to avert another catastrophe.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., on Thursday proposed the United States take responsibility for building a global tsunami warning system and spending $7.5-million a year to maintain it.

Such a system exists only in the Pacific Ocean. Lieberman's bill calls for expanding that system and adding similar ones in the Atlantic and Indian oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

Saudis have telethon

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia _ Saudis streamed into a stadium to load bundles of clothes into trucks and stuff glass boxes with cash Thursday as the government launched a public campaign to help Southeast Asian tsunami victims.

The stadium was the heart of a live national telethon that raised $67.4-million in 11 hours, of which King Fahd donated $5.3-million and Crown Prince Abdullah donated $1.3-million, Saudi TV said.

East Coast felt tsunami

The tsunami that ravaged countries around the Indian Ocean also hit the eastern United States, though only the tide gauges noticed.

A tide gauge at Atlantic City, N.J., recorded the passage of a "train" of waves, just under 9 inches from crest to trough, 32 hours after the earthquake struck off Sumatra's west coast on Dec. 26, said Alexander B. Rabinovich of the Canadian Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, British Columbia. A gauge at Port Canaveral recorded 13.4-inch waves 24 minutes later.

The tsunami was so powerful that it swept around the world over the next 36 hours, scientists said Thursday.

The tsunami ripples would have been imperceptible to Floridians, mingled among the other waters there, but were clearly discernible in the data, Rabinovich said. Other Atlantic gauges detected the waves in Bermuda and the Virgin Islands, he said.