The largest child-recovery effort in U.S. history is complete after more than six months, with 5,192 children missing after hurricanes Katrina and Rita reunited with family members, officials said Tuesday.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children worked with the FBI, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Postal Service, Red Cross and other agencies to find the thousands of children separated from their parents or guardians when Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29 and Hurricane Rita hit just a few weeks later.
“I can’t say there aren’t a few children that may have been missing and not reported to us, but we received more calls than anyone else did, and all our cases have been resolved,” said Bob O’Brien, director of the center’s missing children division.
In the months following Katrina, the agency received reports of 4,710 children missing or displaced in Louisiana, 339 in Mississippi and 39 in Alabama. In Louisiana, most of the reports were about children in the New Orleans area, where heavy flooding and frantic rescues separated families.
After Rita, another 28 children were reported missing or displaced in Louisiana; 76 were reported in Texas.
Of the more than 5,000 children, all but 12 were found alive. Most were found living with other relatives, family friends or other adults, O’Brien said.
The last displaced child, 4-year-old Cortez Stewart, was reunited with her mother and five siblings in Houston on March 16. She hadn’t seen her family since Katrina hit.