Katrina's Missing Still Number in the Thousands

Six months after Hurricane Katrina unleashed death and destruction on the Gulf Coast, more than 1,900 hundred people remain unaccounted for in Louisiana alone.

In Baton Rouge, the missing person's call center needed so much space it moved into an old sporting goods store, which it now calls the Family Find Center.

State workers ring a bell whenever they find a missing person. Today it rang three times.

Since September, they've found more than 13,000 residents who disappeared after Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes workers trace a credit card charge to locate a loved one who is still alive. Other times DNA tests can finally give a name to an unidentified body.

"And as we find them then [their files] are moved into the other cabinets where they are listed as found," said one worker.

Today across the Gulf Coast, there are thousands of families still waiting for word. Of the nearly 2,000 people still missing in Louisiana, 132 are children.

Edward Cherrie lost track of his mother when they were separated during the city's evacuation six months ago. When he finally got the call, it was not the good news for which he had hoped.

"I said, 'Well, where did you find my mother?' [They said] 'Well, in the morgue.' And that was it. I didn't know what to say, I said 'Thank you' and hung the phone up," Cherrie said.

Families' Delayed Discoveries

There's a reason why, after all these months, people are still missing. The numbers keep rising as families get together and discover they've lost track of loved ones.

The call center says it's still receiving hundreds of calls a day, and the most calls came during Christmas.

The state medical examiner, Dr. Louis Catilde, admits that some of those still lost will never be reunited with their families.

"Are there people in the marshes? Quite probably," said Catilde. "Are there people who washed into the Gulf? Very probably. Will they ultimately be found? I don't know the answer to that. Possibly never."

In Mississippi they're holding funerals for the unidentified.

"We don't know them, but they're a part of us," said resident Mary Beasly.

Even though the bodies were found, to their families who have not been located, they are still missing.

ABC News' Steve Osunami filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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