From another reader:
You’ve probably gotten other responses to your Corner post on “decimated”, but I’ll chime in anyway.
Technically, the reporters are off by 500 or 600 percent because their number is 5 or 6 times too low. Decimate, however, despite being from the Latin decimatus for taking the tenth part of, can also just mean to considerably destroy.
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) lists the following as the third definition of decimate:
3. To destroy a considerable part of; as, to decimate an army in battle; to decimate a people by disease.