Americus, Ga. Habitat for Humanity, the Christian home-building organization, said Monday it is close to its goal of raising $25 million to build 25,000 houses for victims of the Asian tsunami.
"It was a terrible tragedy, but we've had a tremendous response," Habitat spokesman Chris Clarke said.
Thanks to some large corporate donors -- including the home-improvement chain Lowe's Cos. -- as well as smaller contributions from individuals and churches, Habitat had raised more than $23 million for tsunami relief, Clarke said.
Lowe's donated $320,000 and raised another $680,000 by matching customer contributions. The National Association of Realtors raised another $1.3 million, he said.
Habitat, which has been working in the Asian-Pacific region for about 10 years, plans to focus its recovery effort on four of the hardest-hit countries: Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia.
Habitat said it has beefed up its Asian staff and has formed new partnerships with relief agencies.
"I've never seen such devastation," said Maria Chomyszak, manager of Habitat's disaster-response office, who visited India, Thailand and Sri Lanka in January. She said the tidal wave damaged or destroyed 130 homes Habitat had already built in Sri Lanka.
"It looked like a bomb had dropped," she said.
The Dec. 26 tsunami killed between 172,000 and 182,000 people in 11 countries and left another 100,000 missing and presumed dead.
Although best known for providing homes for low-income families, Habitat launched a disaster initiative about five years ago. It is helping victims of natural disasters or wars in Afghanistan, Turkey, El Salvador, Venezuela and Angola.