Deirdra Jones, shown yesterday, got information about her family through text messaging on her cell phone.

Message offers relief
to Oahu woman

A cell phone serves as
a link to family who
escaped from Katrina

Between Aug. 29 when the levees broke in New Orleans and last Friday, Oahu resident Deirdre Jones did not hear anything from more than 15 family members who lived there.


» The International Red Cross has created a database of information about victims of Hurricane Katrina -- www.familylinks.icrc.org/katrina. Those without computer access can call 877-568-3317.

» Hawaii residents hoping to locate relatives or friends in Gulfport, Miss., can get help from the Kincaid brothers. Contact Shane Kincaid in Hawaii at 672-4671 or shanemkincaid@hawaii.rr.com with the name, age and address of the missing person. His brother, Phil Kincaid, a policeman with the Gulfport Police Department, will try to find out about the person and report their whereabouts back to Shane in Honolulu.

She knew they had survived Hurricane Katrina at home on New Orleans' West Bank, and planned to evacuate because of flooding. But she did not know if they had made it out safely, or where they were.

"I started to get upset. I called the local Red Cross Friday morning and asked if there was any way to find out if they had made it to a shelter," said Jones, who was born and raised in New Orleans and now lives on Oahu with her husband, Army Maj. Norman Jones, and their teenage daughter.

Relief came last Friday via a text message on Jones' cellular phone. The message was from her 25-year-old niece, Jessica Washington, who had been nine months pregnant when the hurricane hit: "I had my baby today. She is 6 lbs., 12.3 oz. and 20 inches and no, her name is not Katrina."

The message included the phone number of the Baton Rouge hospital where Washington had given birth, and Jones was able to talk to her mother and niece. All the family members were OK, finding shelter at Community Worship Center in Baton Rouge and planning to drive today to Texas, where there are two apartments available for them.

The Hawaii Red Cross is aware of 70 cases where a Hawaii resident is seeking word of someone in the disaster zone, said Maria Lutz, the organization's disaster services director. In at least 10 cases, the searchers have learned their friends or family are OK, Lutz said.

Red Cross workers encourage people not to give up hope, and that each day more names are added to the Red Cross Family Links database as shelters are able to enter the information.

Honolulu resident Shane Kincaid, meanwhile, said his brother on the Gulfport, Miss., police force already has found someone being sought by a relative. Shane told his brother, Phil, that a woman in Michigan was looking for a brother in Gulfport who is also a policeman. Phil was able to relay that the fellow officer was fine.

Phil Kincaid and other Gulfport police are working 20-hour shifts, trying to keep looters from taking over the city, Shane Kincaid said.

"He said that 70 percent of the city is pretty much destroyed," he said. "He said it was like World War III -- destruction, fires, people looting, coming up to police officers with guns and trying to take their cars."

"What they've shown on TV is not the worst of what he's seen," he said.

Kincaid said Hawaii residents trying to find loved ones in the Gulfport area can contact him, and he will ask his brother to help locate them.

Red Cross Katrina victim database

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