BATON ROUGE- Five months after Hurricane Katrina, staff at the Find Family National Call Center still receive new reports of relatives or loved ones missing almost daily. Over the past week alone, more than 80 people have called to report a missing person, taking the time to complete the lengthy Victim Identification Packet.
Call Center Director of Operations Randall Lemoine said there are a variety of reasons why people continue to report new missing persons cases to the Center months after the hurricane.
“One reason is that Red Cross and other groups that set up hotlines and Web sites to find loved ones immediately after Katrina have discontinued those services,” Lemoine said. “With these closings, individuals have few places to search for their missing person and so they call us, registering their family member or person in our database for the first time. They may have called another organization right after the storm but are just now contacting us.”
Other people are calling for the first time because they were unable to make the call immediately after the storm, such as people who were incarcerated or were otherwise unable to contact their family members in August.
In addition, the Center is starting to get calls from more distant relatives, such as step-family members who are just realizing someone is missing, whereas after the storm it was mostly close friends and immediate family who were making these reports, Lemoine said.
“All in all, we believe the majority of these new missing persons cases are people who are still alive but just have not been located since the storm,” Lemoine said. “We are working to further investigate the reasons behind new missing person reports, and we will update this information as it becomes available.”
There were 2,594 people still listed as “missing” as of the end of January according to Call Center statistics. This is a reduction from the more than 3,000 listed as missing only two weeks ago.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has posted a list of the missing on its Web site, www.katrinamissing.dhh.louisiana.gov, in an effort to help reunite families. This list is regularly updated as new information becomes available.
Individuals who wish to report someone missing as well as those who initially reported someone missing and since have located that person are strongly encouraged to contact the call center at 1-866-326-9393.