Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.

Several months ago, officials with the Louisiana Department of Health estimated that, eventually, approximately 500 people would remain missing due to Hurricane Katrina. This estimate was based on the number of calls that continued to be made to the National Find Family Assistance Center (now the Louisiana Family Assistance Center). It was believed at the time that as many as 500 bodies had either washed away or that people had simply vanished on purpose.

Today, statistics supplied by the Louisiana Family Assistance Center show only 458 people remain on the “missing” list. This is down from more than 11,600 initial missing reports that were filed in the weeks and months following the nation’s worst flood. It is also a reduction in the number of missing people since
April 5 when it was announced that only 1,000 people remained missing.

“The fact that staff at the Center have been able to locate 500 people in less than a month shows the dedication of these incredible people,” said Dr. Louis Cataldie, State Medical Examiner. “They continue to work long days, trying to piece together information and evidence that someone might still be alive.”

Even though people have been on the job for more than seven months, everyone still takes personal satisfaction whenever the bell is rung; signifying another person found alive says Cataldie

“Everyone at the Center stops working and claps when they hear that bell,” he says. “I know there are many who say to themselves a quick prayer of thanks when that sound rings out. It’s this success that keeps us all working to reunite families with missing loved ones.”

Cataldie also said that reaching and breaking the 500 barrier was important because it reminded everyone that there are people still to be found.

“We honestly believed that hundreds, maybe as many as 500 people who were missing, would never be found. That was an estimate based on the reports we were hearing late last year, and the rate at which we were able to track people down,” he explained.

He add that increased media attention, increased publicity of the toll-free telephone number for people to call and the confidence that comes from successfully finding people has all added up to improved success.

People who wish to report someone missing as well as those who initially reported someone else as missing and have since located them should contact the Louisiana Family Assistance Center at 1-866-326-9393.