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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 11:42 GMT
Katrina lost child mission ends
Cortez Stewart
Cortez Stewart, 4, is reunited with her mother and siblings
The last missing child case linked to hurricane Katrina has been resolved.

Four-year-old Cortez Stewart was reunited with her mother last week, nearly six months after the disaster, officials announced on Tuesday.

She was the last child waiting to be returned to her family out of 5,192 reported missing or displaced after hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck.

Of those children, all but 12 were found alive following the biggest child recovery operation in US history.

Most of those reported missing were found living with relatives, family friends or other adults, said Bob O'Brien of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The centre worked with the FBI, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the US Postal Service, the Red Cross and other agencies to trace the children.

Living with godmother

"I can't say that there aren't a few children that may have been missing and not reported to us, but we received more calls than anyone else did, and all our cases have been resolved," said Mr O'Brien, who is director of the centre's missing children division.

More than 411,000 were evacuated to more than 40 states, and it became very hard to track the movement
Bob O'Brien, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Cortez had not seen her family since Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29.

She was with her godmother, Felicia Williams, when the hurricane struck, and they sought refuge in a hotel.

They were rescued by helicopter as floodwaters rose around the building and were eventually taken to Atlanta, Mr O'Brien said.

Cortez was taken to Atlanta, but her mother was evacuated to Houston

Cortez's mother, Lisa Stewart, and her five other children were rescued by boat from their New Orleans home and later taken to the Houston Astrodome.

The family ended up in an apartment in Houston, not knowing if Cortez and her godmother had survived the hurricane.

Early efforts to reconnect the family were hampered by incorrect name spellings and other erroneous information, Mr O'Brien said.

Clear-up workers in a devastated neighbourhood of New Orleans
The hurricanes devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast

"Many agencies didn't have a good account of who they were helping," he said.

"More than 411,000 were evacuated to more than 40 states, and it became very hard to track the movement."

Cortez was reunited with her mother and five siblings in Houston on March 16.

More than 1,300 people were killed across the states affected by Katrina - most of them in Louisiana.

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