Concern for relatives prompts desperation

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Nearly a week after Hurricane Katrina ripped through thesouthern states, many relatives are still awaiting word from lovedones trapped by conditions of the storm.

Michael Murphy of northern California called The DAILY LEADERThursday begging for any assistance he could find to reachrelatives living in Pascagoula. He said he was desperate to hearfrom them and found the newspaper on the Internet.

Melinda Raiford Blaise, 48, of Pensacola, a native ofBrookhaven, requested help from the newspaper because she wasworried about her father, James Emory Raiford, 76, of Ruth.

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Blaise contacted Jason Reeves Wednesday through an old e-mail.She said her mother, Jean Moffitt Blaise, died in July and shecontacted Reeves a few days later to get a copy of theobituary.

“I remembered him and how much of a help he was. I just happenedto still have his e-mail,” she said.

Blaise said she spoke to her father very briefly later that dayon a cellular phone but lost him when the connection was broken. Hewas at his sister-in-law’s house in Ruth.

“I know they were OK then,” she said. “I know there were a lotof trees down and they can’t get out. There are heart and diabetespatients in the house so I’m worried about how they are doingnow.”

The situation in Ruth has not changed since Wednesday in Ruth.There is no power or communications.

Blaise said she has also been unable to contact any of her otherrelatives who live in the area.

“He’s the patriarch of the Raifords now, so I’m sure they’retaking the best care of him they can,” she said.

Blaise said she had planned to visit him this weekend untilKatrina closed most of the roads linking the coast to Brookhaven.She last saw him three weeks ago.

Spotty communications have also been used to give voice to criesof help from the coast.

Carol Sui, a Bogue Chitto native now living in Kenner, La.,called her sister, Debra McCaffrey of Bogue Chitto, Thursday to askher to call the media in order to bring attention to herplight.

Sui, a nurse at St. Charles Specialty Hospital in New Orleans,said she was among 26 patients and 40 employees trapped in themedical facility by rising flood waters and looters.

“We were just trying to get the story out and get them some helpfrom somewhere,” McCaffrey said Friday.

McCaffrey said Sui told her late Thursday evening that the U.S.Coast Guard had agreed to come to their rescue, but could not sayif that was done.

“I have not heard from her this morning,” she said.

McCaffrey said the family was also still hoping to hear from anumber of relatives living in Pascagoula. Some of those relativeshave flooded homes.

“We know somebody rescued them and they’re OK, but we haven’theard from them,” she said.

McCaffrey said at least they knew their family was safe. Theycould not imagine the worry faced by countless others who still donot the condition of relatives in the area.

People awaiting contact with loved ones can call the AmericanRed Cross at 1-866-GET-INFO.

The Red Cross, with support of the worldwide Red Cross and RedCrescent Movement, is also launching a Web site to help assistfamily members who are seeking news about loved ones living in thepath of Hurricane Katrina. Visit the “Family Links Registry” to register yourself or a missing relative or toview the existing list of registrants.

Evacuees wishing to inform loved ones of their location canregister their name by clicking on “Family Links Registry” Concerned loved ones can register the names oftheir loved ones and view the list of those already posted. Due tothe extent of the damage and the number of people displaced,concerned friends and family members are encouraged to visit thesite daily to consult the list, as it will be updated continuously.A toll-free hotline is being established for those who do not haveInternet access.