Atlanta consulates are scrambling to find foreign nationals who were living or visiting the Gulf Coast area when catastrophic Hurricane Katrina devastated the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana on Aug. 29.
“We’re desperately looking for people so that we can help them, but we need to know where they are,” said Natacha Constable, spokesperson for the French Consulate in Atlanta. Ms. Constable said that since Wednesday the French Foreign Ministry emergency hotline in Paris had received 2,318 calls from families in France who were searching for information about loved-ones who had been in the Southeast during the time of the storm.
“It is so frustrating to not to be able to get more information about where these people are and how to help them,” she said, noting that the consulate was looking for at least 76 individuals in Mississippi who had officially registered with the consulate.
The actual amount of missing French nationals in Mississippi and Alabama, the two states in the Atlanta consulate’s jurisdiction that were hit by the storm, is estimated to be much higher. Many foreign nationals living and travelling in the U.S. often do not register with their consulates, which makes finding them that much harder, she said.
She also noted that once the French Consulate in Atlanta had feedback from local authorities in Mississippi and Alabama, they would send representatives to the Gulf Coast to assist in the search for their missing countrymen. “If we can get more information of where to go… we’ll go to the Gulf Coast and see what we can do to help,” she said.
The British Consulate General of Atlanta is also planning to send representatives to Mississippi and Alabama to offer assistance to British citizens in those areas, said Helen Arbon, spokeswoman for the consulate.
The French, British and other European consulates in Atlanta are working closely together in search of missing European nationals, Ms. Constable said. The Canadian and Mexican consulates were also looking for citizens who were unaccounted for at press time.
The French Consulate in Atlanta, which will be open all weekend, has established a hotline for people who have any information on missing French citizens. The number is (404) 217-9446. The French embassy in Washington has a similar hotline, available at (202) 944-6000. The French Consulate in New Orleans, which has been relocated to Lafayette, La. can be reached at (337) 291-5493. Contact Ms. Constable at (404) 495-1682.
To report British nationals missing in the Mississippi and Alabama areas, contact (404) 791-6800 or (404) 372-5800. To report British citizens missing in Louisiana, call (713) 659-6270.