ATLANTA (May 15, 2008) – A 7.9-magnitude earthquake in central China rocked eight provinces on May 12, killing an estimated 12,000 people and destroying millions of homes. A Habitat for Humanity team is in the area now assessing needs and will work with local governments and other organizations to develop long-term reconstruction plans.
Former U.S. President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter are in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana this week for the 25th annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, building with Habitat for Humanity. “We are here this week to help rebuild homes and lives for families affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” Carter said. “Unfortunately, the work to rebuild following disasters is never done. The recent cyclone in Myanmar and earthquakes in China require our renewed attention and generosity. We are confident Habitat for Humanity will bring hope to the people of those countries just as they have done here in the US and in the tsunami-affected areas of Asia Pacific.”
Government officials in Sichuan Province, one of China’s most densely populated areas, estimate that 3.5 million homes were destroyed in that province alone. One county 31 miles from the epicenter reported that 80 percent of the buildings were damaged. Officials fear that the continued rain will cause landslides and debris flow, which will cause more destruction. The numbers of severely damaged or destroyed homes in the eight provinces is expected to rise significantly.
The Habitat for Humanity team in the area is coordinating with local officials and other organizations involved in the relief phase and assessing needs for long-term reconstruction. Once the area is cleared and building permits are in hand, Habitat will begin initial reconstruction in partnership with local authorities and partner organizations.
“Habitat for Humanity has a strong and growing program in China,” said Rick Hathaway, vice president for Habitat for Humanity Asia-Pacific region. “Our staff in China and our Asia Pacific team are well-placed to respond to this disaster, drawing upon our experience of rebuilding nearly 20,000 homes following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. We are ready to rebuild.”
Habitat for Humanity has had operations in Yunann province, one of the areas affected and one of the poorest areas of the country, since 2002. Operations in neighboring Guangxi and Guangdong provinces began in 2004. Habitat for Humanity China works with local communities to build houses with families through community-based savings programs.
About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built more than 250,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1 million people. For more information, visit www.habitat.org .