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Habitat for Humanity Chile volunteers assist in earthquake cleanup and reconstruction

March 6, 2010

 

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As aftershocks continue to rock the length of Chile, Habitat staff and local volunteers work to provide hope and stability to families affected by the 8.0-magnitude earthquake that hit 200 miles southwest of Santiago on February 27.

SANTIAGO, CHILE—Within days of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the length of Chile last Saturday, Habitat for Humanity and partners had organized the distribution of emergency tents for affected families in Talca. On Monday, March 8, local volunteers will start to clear ground for the first 36 permanent homes to be built—the first phase in a long-term response.

According to Luis Santibañez, national director for Habitat for Humanity Chile, the organization is committed for the duration. “Even as we prepare to clear ground for the first homes, we are working on plans for a long-term response,” said Santibañez. “However, the extent of that response will depend entirely on the generosity of donors and volunteers.”

Early reports indicate that 500,000 homes sustained considerable damage and some 2 million people have been affected by the quake. Strong aftershocks upwards of 6.0-magnitude continue, maintaining a general sense of insecurity among those who are still in their homes, many of which sustained damage in last Saturday’s quake.

Habitat for Humanity Chile is a long-time partner of Chile’s Ministry of Housing, and will continue to be a partner in upcoming recovery efforts. Habitat Chile offers technical support to groups of families, helping them to access government housing subsidies. These local housing committees now provide a close point of contact for Habitat in assessing earthquake-damaged areas.

Shortly after the quake, a Habitat for Humanity assessment team travelled to the regions of Santiago, Talca, Puerto Saavedra, Los Angeles, Temuco, Curepto and Gualleco to evaluate the housing situation of low-income communities in these affected areas. Initial results indicate that 100 percent of the houses built by Habitat for Humanity Chile remain undamaged. However, many families who had been applying for housing subsidies, but who had not yet started construction, were affected by the quake.

Habitat for Humanity has provided more than 6,300 housing solutions to low-income families since 2002. This includes new house construction, major rehabilitations, repairs and other housing improvements. The organization had recently received extensive training in working in disaster recovery.

Due to transportation complications, Habitat for Humanity Chile is currently only recruiting local volunteers. Opportunities for international volunteer teams to Chile will eventually be available through Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program.