- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006


Ryan Kittle and his wife were on the porch of their hurricane-flooded Mississippi home in September when they saw a van draped with the Union Jack make its way through the downed trees.

“My wife said, joking, ‘It’s for you’ — and they were,” the 24-year-old from Plymouth, England, recalled in a combination Southern drawl and British accent.

Mr. Kittle’s father back in England had been unable to contact him after Hurricane Katrina and desperately called an emergency hot line set up by the Foreign Office in London. British consular officials from Atlanta then drove out to search for Mr. Kittle and dozens of other British subjects reported missing after the hurricane.

Now, at the start of another hurricane season, foreign governments are compiling the names and addresses of their citizens living in the South in case their loved ones back home need to reach them after another disaster.

Hundreds of thousands of foreigners — many of them from Mexico, but also from countries such as England, Germany, France and Italy — are thought to be living in the nation’s Hurricane Alley.

In the aftermath of Katrina, consular officials from Atlanta went knocking on doors along the Gulf Coast in search of foreigners whose worried relatives back home were unable to contact them.

Some foreign countries now are lining up volunteers in the United States who can provide local knowledge, such as directions when street signs have been blown away.

“We want people to be our eyes and ears on the ground,” said British Deputy Consul General Helen Arbon.

That could help them locate people like Kathleen Atwood, 67, of Lyman, Miss. After Katrina, Mrs. Atwood — who came to the United States in 1960 — could not get in touch with her worried relatives in Belfast until, to her astonishment, the van with the British flag drove up a week later.

“The thing that mattered the most was to use our cellular and satellite phones to call home,” said Natalie Pawelski, the British vice consul who found Mrs. Atwood and Mr. Kittle.

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