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December 22, 2010

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Blaze workers finally get paid

MIGRANT laborers who were working on the downtown residential building that went up in flames last month with the loss of 58 lives finally received their outstanding wages yesterday.

The men claimed they had been forgotten in the aftermath of the tragedy at Jiaozhou Road on November 15, which included three workers in its death toll.

With managers of the construction companies involved in the blaze arrested afterwards and their businesses in limbo, the workers found no one to pay them.

But yesterday about 60 men received their money from Jing'an Construction Group, the general contractor of the building's renovation project.

"My boy will have toys in the new year, now we've got the money," said Xie Jili after receiving his payment.

Xie, who was trapped on top of the burning building for hours, received about 3,000 yuan (US$450). Xie said his first name "Jili" - which means lucky in Chinese - protected him that day.

Hao Shaoyou, head of the workers group who had been under great pressure trying to secure payments, also received his cash. "I can say now that we've pulled through this," said Hao.

About 600,000 yuan was paid out to the workers, mostly scaffolders, many from southwestern China's Sichuan Province.

On receiving his wages, Wang Gang, 20, quickly put the money in his pocket. Wang, the youngest of the team, is eager to leave Shanghai.

He's heading home and doesn't care that his fellow workers still tease him for crying when he was trapped on the roof.

"My girlfriend is waiting for me," Wang explained, blushing.

Some workers have already left the city and have no plans to return. Most, however, are uncertain about their futures.

"Until now, I don't even know where my next meal is coming from," said worker Yan Gaoyi, 45.

"Maybe I will come back next year," said Yan. "But maybe not."

Standing on an open greenery space after they had received their money, Hao passed out cigarettes to his co-workers and they stood around smoking.

Their direct involvement with that terrible day in November came to an end. Stubbing out their cigarette ends, the men soon disappeared into the crowds.


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