At the time this article was written, casualty reports had not yet appeared for the earthquake between Afghanistan and Pakistan on December 13, 2005. There may be no deaths or there may be many. If we make a wild guess of 1000 deaths, with a remaining life expectancy of 40 years, the total life-years lost would be 40,000.
Human News aims to devote 1 character to each 40,000 life-years, or 1000 average lives. Thus, this story can have 40,000 / 40,000 = about 1 character.