(Photo: AP Images / Ricardo Mazalan)
After distributing emergency tents to quake-affected families, Habitat for Humanity began to clear ground on Monday to build the first of 36 permanent homes in Chile.
Committed to helping the South American country recover from an 8.8-magnitude earthquake, the Christian organization said the building of homes is just the first phase in its long-term response.
The effort comes as Chile's government said it will need to import temporary housing to aid the 500,000 people whose homes were damaged by the quake last month.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet told TVN, "We are looking to buy emergency temporary housing from Argentina and Brazil because there is simply not enough in Chile."
Habitat for Humanity Chile has provided more than 6,300 housing solutions to low-income families since 2002. After the quake, workers assessed low-income communities where the organization had built houses. None of the homes were affected by the quake. However, many families who had been applying for housing subsidies were affected by the disaster, Habitat reported.
To give families some sense of normalcy, another Christian organization has set up a children's center to provide a safe place for engagement in activities and education. World Vision on Sunday opened what it calls a Child-Friendly-Space in Dichato, Chile. The centers are set up in tents, schools, churches and other structures and each can accommodate about 100 kids.
The massive quake, one of the most powerful on record, struck the coastal country on Feb. 27. And since then the country has been rattled by more than 120 aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater. Researchers at Ohio State University and the University of Hawaii say the city of Concepcion – the nearest major city to the quake – moved at least 10 feet to the west as a result of the quake.
The death toll is currently at over 400, down from earlier estimates of 800 when the missing and presumed dead were included. Reconstruction spending is estimated to total $4.8 billion.
Currently, Habitat for Humanity Chile is only recruiting local volunteers due to transportation complications.