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Italy Quake Relief Enters Second Phase

Caritas Italiana entered the second phase of its response to the deadly April 6 earthquake near L'Aquila, Italy.

Caritas says that "up to one third of L'Aquila's houses are thought to be uninhabitable because of damage inflicted by the disaster. Many people are being housed in tents in camps around the city or in tents in their own gardens. Others are in hotels on the nearby coast." The quake killed about 300 and displaced tens of thousands.

Aftermath of earthquake in L'Aquila.

Rescuers sift through the wreckage of a house after an earthquake in the Italian village of Onna April 6, 2009. Photo by Reuters/Chris Helgren, courtesy www.alertnet.org

Catholic Relief Services immediately began raising funds for relief efforts as well as supporting Caritas and earthquake survivors in prayer.

"American Catholics are reaching out to our Italian brothers and sisters affected by the earthquake," says Michael Wiest, CRS' executive vice president of Charitable Giving.

During the first phase, more than 300 volunteers joined a staff of 15 people to assist displaced families. Caritas said 106 tent centers were set up for 57,000 displaced people.

For the first 10 days following the quake, workers concentrated on managing relief aid such as food, medicines, clothes, hygiene items, beds, sleeping bags and tents.

In its second phase, Caritas is assessing needs in 46 parishes affected by the earthquake. In a process it calls "twinning," Caritas is collaborating with communities, parishes and local authorities to identify and assist in reconstruction support.

According to Caritas, "approximately 1,400 volunteers will be involved in the work."

The twinning is a key element that gives "continuity to the work of counseling, to ensure a long-term presence, [and] to define reconstruction plans according to the people's real needs."

As part of phase three, Caritas will be involved in building schools, community centers and housing for the elderly, vulnerable families and others.

"Between 10 and 12 percent of funds raised will be used for microcredit projects to help people regain independence in their lives in the post-emergency phase," Caritas says.

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