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September 1, 2010

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Bad weather adds urgency to Ever-Spring rescue

WORKERS are expected to be scrambling today to protect deteriorating Ever-Spring Hall from today's possibly severe weather conditions, as the neglected city landmark shows signs of more damage.

Seven days ago, the roof over one of the 450-year-old building's rooms collapsed due to heavy rain. Yesterday, another part of the roof cracked because the building had shifted. Wooden beams hung in the air, ready to fall.

Now, facing the threat of Typhoon Kompasu that was forecast to affect the city last night and today, Huangpu District government officials promised to have the building sturdy enough to withstand the storm.

Li Mingjun, director of the cultural relic section of the Huangpu Culture Bureau, told Shanghai Daily that after several days' inspections, the result showed that the hall was repairable and worth the effort because some inner decorations were preserved in good condition.

The first job: Prevent further damage from today's expected weather.

"With reinforced protections on its walls and roofs, we are sure that the typhoon won't tear it apart," said Li.

After that, Li said, they planned to renovate the hall. But it may still take several weeks before they get money from the city government and they don't yet have a detailed plan.

Groups of people, from workers to government officials, have inspected the unstable building since Shanghai Daily reported the roof collapse last Friday, but none of them undertook emergency repairs.

One worker, surnamed Zhang, said that workers and government officials hadn't dared to conduct repair work without permission from their superiors, as they believed the whole building might collapse with a "single finger touch."

"The repair work is tough," Zhang said. "You need a whole professional construction team with fine equipment to prevent the tilting building from collapsing."

He and other workers sent by the bureau were working at a construction site next to the ancient architecture, furnishing a new activity center for elderly men.

Ever-Spring Hall, built by the same man behind the nearby Yuyuan Garden, dates to the mid-1500s, when it was a private house belonging to a wealthy imperial official, Pan Yunduan.

It served as Shanghai's first Catholic Church in 1640. It later became a Chinese temple, a gymnasium for an elementary school, a police station and, finally, an empty shell used as a construction dump site.

Wang Anshi, vice director of Historical Building Protection Committee, suggested that the building be renovated into another landmark for sightseeing after repairs are done, just like Yuyuan Garden.


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