Internet is Bulletin Board For Katrina Victims

By Todd Eastham

After 9/11, descriptions and photos of missing family, friends and co-workers were plastered on walls and bulletin boards in lower Manhattan, but with New Orleans a ghost town after Hurricane Katrina, the Internet is now the medium of choice for those seeking lost loved ones.

"My aunt Geraldine, age 95, lives with her 75-year-old daughter, my first cousin Bernadine Givens ... in New Orleans. ... We believe Geraldine's 76-year-old half brother, my uncle Raul Maurice, was also with them," read one posting on, a popular community bulletin board.

"Geraldine is in a wheelchair. Please Help Me. I spoke with them on Sunday August 28th, the day before Katrina hit ... and nothing since," said the posting under the "missing people" icon in a New Orleans section of that site.

While the power of the Internet offers promise to people struggling to reconnect with hurricane survivors, people and pets, several phone calls on Sunday -- six days after the Category 4 storm hit the Gulf Coast -- yielded only one happy outcome, recounted by Kristina Carapina, 21, of Houston.

"Today is my birthday and yesterday I heard from the Red Cross that they were rescued from the roof. "They called at 11:30 last night from a shelter. ... They were in St. Bernard, the worst hit area. They were on the roof for five days."

'They' were her boyfriend Brian, 27, Tim McHughes, 24, and their mother, Dianne Clement. They were "a little worn out and bruised up, but they're good. "They brought a barbecue up to the roof. They had some canned food."

Still, two people from that family remained unaccounted for in the ruined city -- a grandmother and an uncle.


And that was among the most gratifying outcomes. Salvador Mendez of Ohio's posting on craigslist read: "I am searching for my cousins, David Roberto, Luis or Matilde Mendez of Taqueria Corona as well as their mother Aminta Hue zo Parada."

Contacted on Sunday, Mendez said, "Unfortunately, I don't have any news about them." He had also posted notices on the New Orleans site and Of those sites, he and others said craigslist was most user friendly.

The Web search wasn't limited to people. Billie Sue Bruce of Jonesville, Virginia, said she was outraged to see television footage of a white bichon dog named Snowball torn from a little boy's arms by a guardsman as the boy was evacuated by bus.

Bruce posted a $500 reward for return of the dog to the boy and was joined by others. The reward, now posted on craiglist, and other sites like

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had risen to $2,500 with other contributors.

"That story terribly upset me because it was a combination of a child's heartbreak and an abandoned pet," said Bruce.

Bjay Lateny of San Diego posted on craigslist a search for Marie-Helen Poulaert from Belgium, saying she had used the Web site in the past for "getting rid of stuff in my backyard ... looking for work," but never for anything like this.

"I went to high school with her in northern Arizona. She was an exchange student. But I've had no word. You're actually the first call," she told this reporter.

News Web sites including have also set up Internet help centers, including missing persons lists, resources for survivors, ways to donate and volunteer. The success of these sites in bringing survivors together with friends and loved ones could not be immediately determined.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Also consider
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which is maintained by WWL-TV, channel 4 in New Orleans. There was something on
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inquiring about Mark Cuccia. PAT]
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