By and  on September 12, 2005

NEW YORK — As the chaos from Hurricane Katrina rolls on and the death toll mounts, retailers continue to try to locate missing employees, assess store damages and establish relief programs for thousands of displaced workers.

Wal-Mart said 93 percent of its 34,000 employees from the hurricane region are safe or working in other company units. That leaves 2,380 associates at large. The company, as of Friday, had 15 stores closed.

Wal-Mart activated an online emergency contact registry for customers and associates to e-mail, post and search for messages from family and loved ones. Associates and the public can go to any Wal-Mart, Sam's Club or Neighborhood Market and use store kiosks and gift registries to access the service. The registry also can be accessed at home via the company's Web sites.

The company, which has committed $17 million to the relief effort, is giving associates the opportunity to apply for jobs in regions where they've temporarily or permanently resettled. More than 1,000 people took advantage of the offer, said Melissa O'Brien, a spokeswoman.

"They're eligible for up to $1,000 in cash," said O'Brien. "That will take them to the end of the month. We've offered them a job wherever they are. That's a great relief."

Gap Inc. said Friday that 91 employees were still missing, and it had received reports of tragedies. A two-year-old child of one of Gap's workers was lost in the hurricane, and one worker lost four family members, according to Robin Carr, Gap's director of media relations and corporate communications.

More than 1,300 Gap employees have been affected by the hurricane. The company wants them to know about Gap-sponsored assistance such as housing and clothing allowances and additional pay, and urges them to call Gap or to visit the corporate Web site, gapinc.com, and click on Hurricane Katrina Relief.

At one time, 70 Gap stores were knocked out, but as of Friday, there were just 22 still out.

"We are going to reemploy our employees anywhere in the country they want to be reemployed," said Carr.

As part of the corporation's relief efforts, all Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and outlet locations are offering a 15 percent discount on merchandise through Oct. 31 to customers from areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina, provided they show either an Alabama, Louisiana or Mississippi identification card.

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