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An earthquake, revisited

Six months after an earthquake devastated parts of Costa Rica, efforts to rebuild.

Tambor was one of the fortunate towns in Alajuela province that wasn't totaled during the quake.

The Mixed Institute for Social Aid, a state-run agency, has been financing the monthly rent for hundreds of families awaiting relocation. Meanwhile, the National Housing Mortgage Bank is using more than $12 million in World Bank relief money to provide credit to help alleviate the housing problem, Zomer said. Foreign governments, charities, businesses and private donors have also assisted in the recovery.

The 685-square-meter housing plot in Tambor, for example, was a $210,000 donation from beverage company Florida Bebidas. And employees from the company — which owns the national brewery — will pitch in as volunteers to help erect the homes.

The families that lost almost everything in the quake are also helping to build the new community. After seeing their home in San Geronimo, Alajuela, crumble, Christian Benavides and his wife Francis Mejias have been visiting the plot with their two boys, ages 2 and 11. The visits have sparked mixed emotions.

"Making a change like this is kind of strange," said 33-year-old Mejias. "For all the help we’ve gotten, all the donations, it’s been really hard to leave the town we’ve lived in our whole lives."

She added that her 11-year-old, Christian Alonso, is having a hard time adjusting to a new school, and to starting over. The day the earth shook is still fresh in his mind. "It was so scary," the boy said as his mom went on to tell of their escape.

"I was at home with both the kids, the little one was sleeping," Mejias said. "When we were trying to escape everything was falling down, a mirror crashed down at my feet, a horrible experience. You wake up and say what a trauma, and you’re still shaking."

The family waited outside in the street until emergency officials came and moved the Benavides family and 68 other people into a makeshift shelter — outdoor tents on an open soccer field. Christian Benavides said it got too cold and the campsite was evacuated. Many of those left homeless from the quake moved in with family members; others rented apartments with the help of state assistance.

"After a month we had to evacuate because of the strong winds and bad weather, the clothing and cans, everything flying all over the place," Benavides said, holding his 2-year-old son, Anderson, and gazing at his wife.

She said, "At least we survived and are moving on."

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