Video: Missing kids

msnbc.com
updated 9/6/2005 3:50:58 PM ET 2005-09-06T19:50:58

Thousands of people continue to search for loved ones, missing in Hurricane Katrina's wake.  But, families have started to relocate one another: one mother found her seven children Sunday night in San Antonio, there was a tearful reunion of another mother with her children in Corpus Christie.  Countless others are waiting to be found. 

Ernie Allen, President of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, tries to bring families back together.  He spoke with MSNBC-TV's Rita Cosby on how the organization created a new national missing persons database to help find victims.

RITA COSBY, LIVE AND DIRECT HOST: Mr. Allen, how many families have you reunited so far?

ERNIE ALLEN, PRESIDENT OF CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: We‘ve really just begun, Rita, but there‘s some really exciting signs: seven young children in a Baton Rouge shelter reunited with their parents in San Antonio, a 15-day-old infant reunited with her mother in Dallas.  We think this is a huge problem , but if we can get information out that we have people on the ground going into the shelters, taking digital photos, we believe we can reunite many, many of these families.

COSBY: Yes, Mr. Allen, you just talked about reuniting a 15-day-old baby.  I mean, that must be an enormous task, going around do you go to every shelter and say, 'Do you have a baby that‘s missing?'  I mean, that just seems astounding.  It‘s incredible.

ALLEN: Well, Rita, this is really an information challenge.  What we‘re trying to do is work in partnership with state and local law enforcement, with the FBI, with the state missing children clearinghouses in those four states and with every possible resource.  We‘ve created — the Justice Department has asked to us to create — a new national missing children‘s, missing persons hotline regarding Katrina.  We‘re urging people to go there to report cases, to give us leads about where these people are, so that we can link them with their families.

COSBY: We‘re looking at some pictures, incidentally, Mr. Allen, coming out of Houston.  And now we‘re looking at former President Bush, who was actually there, greeting some kids today, some beautiful pictures that we‘re seeing, and Mrs. Bush joining him.  So just some wonderful moments.  Of course, both of them being based there in Houston, a city that‘s near and dear to them.  And of course, that‘s where the Astrodome is, where there are so many folks.  Also President Clinton, who is joining them, of course, in the effort, helping in the relief efforts there, as well.

Mr. Allen, what I also thought was really just an amazing and interesting angle, too, is that your group, because of the technology that you‘ve been using for missing folks all these years, is also able to help some of the unidentifiable.  Tell us about that.

ALLEN: Well, Rita, we‘ve done that for years because there are many cases in which a body in a morgue, because of the circumstances of death, is just not recognizable.  We‘re using forensic imagining, forensic art and other tools to do facial reconstructions and to create pictures of a person that could be circulated to the public for recognition.  There are some wonderful coroners and medical examiners who are doing the work to identify the decreased in the Gulf Coast region, but the Justice Department has asked for us to be a resource to them in that effort, and we‘re trying to do that.

COSBY:  Mr. Allen, best of luck to you.  I know we‘ll be talking with you.

If you have any information about about a missing loved one or want to report someone who has been located, both of those things can go through this pipeline here.  It‘s the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  And again, they also have a Web site.  You can see the phone number there, too, but the Web site is www.missingkids.com.

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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