The whereabouts of 6,644 people, reported missing after Hurricane Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast in late August, have not been determined, raising the prospect that the death toll from the disaster could be higher than the 1,306 recorded so far in Louisiana and Mississippi, the USA Today newspaper reported Tuesday.
Workers counting the victims were particularly concerned about an estimated 1,300 unaccounted-for people who lived in areas that were heavily damaged by Katrina, or who were disabled at the time the storm hit, the report said, quoting Kym Pasqualini, chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing Adults, a group working with the federal government to account for victims.
Some of those on the list of people still missing were likely to be among the 301 unidentified victims whose bodies were at a Louisiana state morgue. These victims were already included in the death total, the report said.
Most of those who remained listed as unaccounted-for 12 weeks after the storm, however, probably were alive and well, said Pasqualini.
These people were listed as missing because government record-keeping efforts hadn't caught up with them in their new locations, he said.
Nearly 1,000 of the 6,644 unaccounted-for people were children. "A small number" of the missing children eventually would be listed as dead, but most of them probably were reunited with relatives after the children were reported missing during evacuations in New Orleans of Louisiana and Mississippi, according to Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
The southern US states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were hit by disastrous Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, which left more than 1,300 people dead, about 1 million others displaced and inflicted heavy property losses.