How to find family and friends after natural disasters strike

Finding loved ones after natural disasters strike

HENDERSON - A Henderson woman living on St. John Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands survived both Irma and Maria, finally letting her family know she was safe on Thursday.

CBS19 shared the story of Tracy Young who moved to the island in 2016. Her family thought they lost her after not hearing from her until days after Hurricane Irma. After Maria, they started to worry again.

"We really just sit and wait every night," said her sister, Kelli Potts.

The family has reached out to local rescue organizations, trying to get answers. All they've heard is answering machines.

"My mother just happened to catch a statement where one of the ladies my sister knows was okay. My mom said, 'Well, I have to assume Tracy's with them, and she's okay,'" Potts said.

Potts said there is one spot on the island where cell phone service is available. The high traffic in the area makes it hard for anyone to make calls out.

Executive Director of the American Red Cross in East Texas Tammy Prater said families should not panic.

"Don't think the worst. Don't panic yet. Give some time for systems to come back up, and for power to be restored," she said. "Most family members who are there want to reach out, and as soon as they can, they will."

If you have a family member or loved one on U.S. territory that is in poor health or elderly, you can call the Red Cross directly at 1-800-733-2767. This number should only be used for emergencies to keep the lines open.

The American Red Cross Safe and Well website is a free public reunification tool that allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to indicate that they are safe, or to search for loved ones. The site is always available and open to the public. Registrations and searches can be done directly on the website or by text, completed by texting SAFE to 78876.

If you live in the United States and are looking for non-U.S. citizen family members affected by Hurricane Maria in the French and Dutch territories, and British Virgin Islands, you can find information online
 
If you are looking for a U.S. citizen affected by recent international disasters, contact the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 or online
 
If you are seeking information about non-U.S. citizen family members in Mexico who have been missing since the recent earthquake, call the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links Helpline at 844-782-9441.

© 2017 KYTX-TV


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