People Still Registered as Missing in the Aftermath of Katrina

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Two months after Hurricane Katrina, over 496,000 people are still registered as either missing or searching for news of loved ones. New registrations are being added almost every day.

Two months after Hurricane Katrina struck, the international team of volunteers who created Disastersearch is still on the job.

Originally launched in September as the Katrina Evacuee Help Center at disastersearch.org, the web-based service was renamed as Disastersearch as it moved its focus to providing services to all those affected by Atlantic hurricanes.

“It became clear with Rita that the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was not going to leave us alone,” says Lynne Pope, a city councilwoman and web designer from New Zealand who is one of the team from around the world that has been working 18 hour days non-stop on the site.

As Hurricane Rita moved through the Gulf of Mexico many people who had been located by friends and family in the aftermath of Katrina found themselves being evacuated again, with their whereabouts becoming again unknown.

At Disastersearch people can register notifications that they are looking for others and displaced people can let friends and family know where they are. The database is searchable and can be accessed either via the Internet or by WAP over mobile phones.

“Disastersearch began in response to Katrina and it quickly became obvious that people needed a centralized database for registering themselves as either safe or searching for missing loved ones,” Lynne says. “It also became clear that the need for this service is ongoing.”

In the last two months more than 750,000 people have been registered in the Disastersearch database as either safe or missing.

“There are currently just under 497,000 people registered on the site,” Mrs. Pope says, “and while the numbers go down as people are located and remove their records, we are still seeing new registrations.”

John Long of Delaware added that many people are probably unaware that friends or family members may be looking for them.

“We get emails nearly every day from people who are reporting that they have found the person they were looking for,” he says, “but our concern is that amongst the 496,000 plus people that are still registered on our site there are probably many who are safe yet don’t know that others are desperately worried about them”.

Although the number of website visits has dropped in October, Disastersearch is averaging 95,000 hits per day.

“As word has spread that we have the site in both English and Spanish we are starting to see increasing numbers of hits on our Spanish pages,” says Ezequiel Amaya of Orlando, Florida.

Mr Amaya leads a team of volunteer Spanish translators who immediately translate any new information that is put on the site. “As far as we know, we are the only site of this kind that offers all the information in both languages,” he says.

The team at Disastersearch says they have learned many things from this hurricane season. Frightened and vulnerable people must be given access to reliable information, they say, and the need for a centralized registry for missing people has been proven.

Disastersearch, at http://www.disastersearch.org, is not a one-hurricane service. The web designers, programmers and developers who have been working on providing this service plan on using what they have learned from this season in order to be prepared for the 2006 hurricane season.

CONTACT:

Lynne Pope

Palmerston North,

New Zealand

Phone: +64 6 356-7978

Email: l.pope@disastersearch.org

John Long

Newark,

Delaware

Phone: +1 302 235-0834

Email: j.long@disastersearch.org

Ezequiel Amaya

Orlando,

Florida

Email: e.amaya@disastersearch.org

http://www.disastersearch.org

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John Long