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March 26, 2010

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Fallen plaster shows inspection flaw

PROPERTY management authorities yesterday started to remove plaster decoration columns from the building on Guangling No. 1 Road where a piece of exterior wall fell off and killed a five-year-old boy on Monday.

The boy was playing under the building at 5pm when the 4-meter-long column fell and hit him. The boy didn't bleed but died in hospital later.

Plans to rehab the building will be issued in several days, said an official surnamed Zhang with Yunzhong Property Management Co.

The real estate developer will arrange compensation for the boy's death, Zhang added.

"It's merely an unfortunate accident and the building itself is fine," Zhang said.

However, a Shanghai Daily investigation found that most of the city's old houses lack regular safety checks - a situation that poses hidden dangers for passers-by.

Experts are calling for a system of regular upkeep of buildings, especially old ones. But public awareness of the problem is low and people are unwilling to pay the inspection fee.

"With the boom of real estate business, more high-rises have been built up but the system of upkeep fails to follow up," said Chen Shiming, a Tongji University professor specializing in buildings and structures.

He blamed developers who are overly eager to sell out their apartment buildings; once sold, the buildings are left unattended until an accident happens.

"The problem is that we are acting too passively with the upkeep and repairs, so we are not able to take precautions before suffering heavy losses," said Chen.

Without regular safety checks, Chen said, it's much more likely that exterior wall pieces will fall or that cracks on walls or ceilings will grow to dangerous lengths.

"The decorative materials of old buildings should be replaced every five to 10 years, but this was often ignored by developers," said Chen.

A resident surnamed Gao who lives at the residential building on Guangling No.1 Road agreed.

Gao said he saw a piece of exterior wall fall off the building in May last year. The piece hit the ground only one step away from an old lady.

Chen said the public doesn't show much concern for the problem and is reluctant to pay for the inspections.

A Hongkou District Housing Management Bureau official said people who want their buildings checked must pay a fee based on square meters. And they must look for an inspector themselves or through their property's management.


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