|Amanda and Christina are friends and currently live in the same apartment complex. The complex was condemned after Hurricane Katrina struck, and their families will be separating.|
By Thomas Nybo
BILOXI, Mississippi, 19 September 2005 – Christina Handford, 13 and Amanda Nguyen, 11, are best friends. They and their families survived Hurricane Katrina, which hit this community hard, but now they have to face two additional challenges: living without electricity, and an uncertain future for their friendship.
When Hurricane Katrina flooded the first floor of the apartment complex in which they live, Christina and Amanda took refuge upstairs together with their families.
"It was a little bit hot in here. We couldn't open the windows because the water would come in," Amanda remembers. "And if the water came up, we [would] bust a window and try to get out to survive during the hurricane."
The waters rose to within a few feet of their refuge before subsiding. But city officials have now condemned their apartment complex, forcing all the residents to begin searching for a new place to live.
Furthermore, because the apartments were condemned, power is not being restored to them. Christina, Amanda, and all of the 30 or so families in the complex are navigating at night by candle or flashlight. Most of the residents are poor, so buying a generator is not an option.
Complicating matters is the fact that the flood destroyed all of the vehicles in the neighbourhood. Without transportation, buying food or supplies means a very long walk.
Besides dealing with the aftermath, the two girls are also coming to terms with the fact that their friendship will have to survive a separation – as Christina and her family are planning to leave Biloxi to rebuild their lives somewhere else.
As they pass another night lit only by a few candles brought by a visitor, Amanda asks Christina what her family is going to do.
"First, my family is going to live with my uncle for a little while in New Jersey," Christina says. "And then after that, we're going to California or New York or Atlanta...we don't know yet."
When Amanda asks whether she is happy about moving, Christina replies: "I'm going to feel lonely in my new place until I find more friends."
Maya Dollarhide and Eric Mullerbeck contributed to this story from New York.
19 September 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports from Biloxi, Mississippi, on how two best friends are coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.