NGO to raise more roofs for Costa Rica earthquake victims

February 13, 2009

The Chilean nongovernmental organization Un Techo Para Mi País (A Roof for My House) plans to return next week to areas damaged by the Jan. 8 earthquake to build temporary wooden houses for the families left homeless.

Un Techo spokesman Iván Víquez said on Thursday that volunteers were signing up for the next operation, set for Wednesday through Sunday, to construct dozens more homes. The exact location hadn´t been determined by press time, but Víquez said the building will likely take place in either Poasito or Fraijanes, northwest of San José in the Alajuela province.

Last weekend, about 100 volunteers and area residents built 15 temporary residences in Poasito.

The magnitude 6 quake struck near Poás Volcano, a popular tourist site. The epicenter was located 20 kilometers north of San José. The effects of the earthquake rippled outwards, knocking over homes in its path in Heredia and Alajuela, and killing as many as 30 people. At least 2,200 people were forced to flee damaged villages, sleeping on foam mattresses in makeshift shelters in schools, churches or community halls, or camped out in tents on soccer fields.

Some 385 people remain in shelters after families returned to those homes least damaged, while others have found rentals with help from the state-run Mixed Institute for Social Aid, according to National Emergency Commission spokeswoman Rebeca Madrigal. No families remain in the outdoor campsites, she said, and the people who sought shelter in schools are being moved to other sites as classes start this week.

However, according to Health Minister María Luisa Avila, as many as 650 people could still be in shelters, and the “minority” remains in camping tents.

Madrigal added that Un Techo´s project is also important for helping create a home for victims while they wait for more permanent housing.

Víquez said his organization plans to put up more than 200 techos, or roofs, for earthquake victims. Each house costs from $1,600 to $1,800, funds that Un Techo raised through private and state donations.

The NGO has previously built 230 such structures in Costa Rica and some 40,000 more across Latin America.

For more information, visit www.untechoparamipais.org.

Tico Times reporter Leland Baxter-Neal contributed to this story.

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