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December 21, 2010

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Bund slum victory too late for senior

NEWS that residents living in slum conditions in the shadow of the Bund are to have their homes renovated has come too late for one elderly householder, who died hours before the announcement.

The 85-year-old woman, surnamed Xue, had lived in a 10-square-meter room on the fourth floor of the badly subsiding building at Zhongshan Road E2 for her entire life. She shared the room with her 65-year-old daughter surnamed Han.

Latterly, she was diagnosed with cancer and endured the disease in squalor, with deep cracks in the walls leaving her home open to the elements.

Xue had dreamed of moving to a warm, comfortable apartment but in a cruel twist of fate died last Thursday night. Hours later, Huangpu District Housing Authority announced renovations for the 100-year-old block.

Residents were told by the housing authority last Friday to vacate the building within a week as workers prepare to begin a two-year renovation project. The announcement was made after a government inspection concluded that the dilapidated Gangsi Building, which stands next to the wealth and glamor of the Bund, is too dangerous to live in.

It was built in 1910 to serve as dormitories for workers from a British ship company. Later, Shanghai locals moved in, and latterly 200 residents - mainly elderly people - lived in 73 households there.

Residents will receive government subsidies, initially 300 yuan (US$45) for each person per day during the seven-day period when they must find alternative accommodation.

Then each household will be paid at least 3,700 yuan each month during the following two years. If the work is a success, residents should move back in December 2012.

On hearing the news, some residents wept with relief, but there were also mixed feelings. They were delighted to escape the nightmare of living in a tilting building where the "earthquake" effect of passing trucks would send them rushing from their homes in panic at all hours.

And most seemed satisfied with the money offered by the government.

But there are also concerns about the future, as the housing authority didn't guarantee that the repair works would be complete in two years.

Indeed, they are unsure whether the building can be repaired.

"The government has done a good deed to help us move," said a 65-year-old resident, surnamed Qu, "But we will be away from home for two years and don't know whether the repairs project will work."

Qu's family will get 5,400 yuan a month and plans to live with relatives.

However, for 65-year-old Han, grieving the loss of her mother, talk about temporary relocation and subsidies holds little interest at present.


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