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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 13:53 GMT
Christmas after Katrina: Part one
A damaged Santa standing in front of a home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina
Christmas in New Orleans will be very different this year
The coming Christmas period will be a difficult one for the thousands of people affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Many who were displaced by the hurricane say they are too busy trying to survive to even think about the holiday season.

In the first of two pieces, the BBC News website spoke to some current and former New Orleans residents about what life is like almost four months on from the disaster and where they will spend their first Christmas after Katrina.

KATHLEEN LANSKY, 45, NOW IN AUSTIN, TEXAS

Kathleen Lansky stayed in her home in the Lakeview area of New Orleans throughout Hurricane Katrina. She was evacuated by boat after floodwaters engulfed her home and was then bussed to a shelter in Shreeveport, Louisiana, where she was collected by her brother and driven to Austin, Texas. She has remained there since.

It's going to be a very different Christmas this year.

There are so many families who won't be able to go home. Many are still in hotels and temporary accommodation.

I hope all the thousands of people who were in the convention centre here in Austin have somewhere to go this Christmas.

I'm going to spend the holidays thinking about others.

New Orleans will recover, but it will be nothing like it was before
I was lucky. I almost ended up in the Superdome but I decided to stay in my home and was lucky to be rescued by Houston police officers in their boat.

I was with my neighbour Jimmy and we were prepared to brave it out, but after the water came into the house it became difficult with the heat and the stink.

In the boat, we passed by people who were on their rooftops waiting to be rescued.

We later met one man who had spent three days on his roof waiting for help.

We waited all day to get a bus and saw tempers getting frayed as people tried to board any bus out. In the end we had to pay the driver $20 just to get a place on the bus.

By the time I got to Shreeveport, I had been called a refugee, an evacuee, an adoptee and a victim by various volunteers along the way.

It took until about two weeks later - when I was in Austin - for the shock of what actually happened to really sink in.

A volunteer collects books from the flood-damaged library at Beth Israel synagogue in New Orleans
The clean-up operation is ongoing throughout the city
I discovered I had infected ant-bites all over my body, which I must have got from the filthy water. They even left scars.

I have not returned to New Orleans since. A friend of mine went to my apartment and said it was destroyed.

I'm trying to get back on my feet here in Austin. I've got a job and an apartment. The people of Texas have been so good to the people who have ended up here.

My ex-husband and two daughters live here, so I see myself staying here now.

It's tragic what happened to New Orleans, but out of this tragedy I think there is opportunity.

It gives all those people that would never have left New Orleans a chance to get a job, get some training and a new start in a new town.

New Orleans will recover, but it will be nothing like it was before.

CATHE ANTUNEZ, 36, NOW IN GULF BREEZE, FLORIDA

Cathe Antunez
Cathe Antunez lived in the Lakefront neighbourhood of New Orleans and lost everything when the levee at the 17th Street Canal was breached.

Walking into my apartment for the first time - two weeks after Katrina - was difficult. I stepped in and immediately ran back out and got sick.

There was mould everywhere, crawling up the walls, all over my clothes, on the bed, on the furniture.

All my books - I had a great selection of the classics and ancient history - were destroyed.

I couldn't salvage anything and I spent a month crying because some things can't be replaced.

The mould also caused me such breathing problems that I developed severe asthma again, after getting rid of it years ago.

I initially didn't know where to go. I had lived in New Orleans for the best part of 10 years.

I was disgusted and disappointed with the way I was treated by Fema
But I'm strong willed and I returned to Florida, where I had previously lived.

I registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) and was put up in a hotel. But then Fema served notice to everyone staying in hotels that they had to relocate to more permanent accommodation.

I was disgusted and disappointed with the way I was treated by Fema.

I was a victim of this hurricane and yet I was made to feel even more frustrated by people with lousy customer service skills.

They offered me a small business loan, but I wasn't interested in a loan - I wanted a job and money!

Samuel Jones holds a photo of his wife taken last Christmas in the Ninth Ward section of New Orleans, which was destroyed by Katrina
Whole neighbourhoods were destroyed by the hurricane
So I told Fema I had had enough, went out and found an apartment and they gave me three months' rental assistance.

I now work two jobs and have my own place. I plan on staying in Florida for the foreseeable future.

I left New Orleans only with only a couple of days' worth of clothes, my cat and my bible.

But I'm starting again and I'm working hard at it.

I would love to go back, but not for a few years. Even if I wanted to go back now I couldn't, because my asthma is so bad.

I feel bad for people who were less fortunate than me. I have friends who were rescued from their houses in boats and went through the whole experience of living in the Superdome for days waiting for help.

Some of them are now in Texas and some have returned to New Orleans and are trying to rebuild.

I have a positive attitude and am getting back on my feet.

I will travel to Tupelo, Mississippi to spend Christmas with my family. I will then return and continue to take it one day at a time.





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