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July 27, 2011

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Just 1 in 10 take up fire cash offer

ONLY 16 owners of the apartments destroyed in last year's deadly high-rise inferno on Jiaozhou Road accepted the compensation offered, authorities said yesterday.

Owners of the other 146 flats in the gutted block in Jing'an District had not accepted the offer by July 20.

They are holding out for better terms amid claims the process was not conducted properly.

Compensation was offered by state-owned construction company Jing'an Construction Co, the general contractor on the renovation project that led to the blaze.

A stray spark from a welder's torch is believed to have started the fire on November 15 that claimed 58 lives and left 70 people injured.

Owners who accepted compensation are expected to receive about 51,000 yuan (US$7,917.8) per square meter for their destroyed homes - 1.5 times the market price.

But most refused to sign up, claiming the evaluation process was illegal.

Wang Hong, who lost his wife and mother in the blaze, said they are preparing to sue Jing'an Construction.

"There are no negotiations any more," Wang told Shanghai Daily. "They just laid down this compensation plan - even though the whole process was improper and illegal."

Under the official compensation plan, owners were offered three options: the repair of their original home; a new home; or a lump sum. It is believed that no one took up the first two options.

Wang said owners were never told how the evaluation of their apartments and the compensation standard were worked out.

"The evaluation company they hired was never authorized by us," Wang said.

"We asked them to release the statistics but they never did," he said.

Meanwhile, householders are urging for the State Council's report into the fire to be made public.

A total of 26 people, including welders and representatives of companies responsible for the renovation project went on trial last week, facing criminal charges.

Some 28 officials and company workers, including Vice Mayor Shen Jun and Jing'an District Director Zhang Renliang, received Party or administrative penalties, according to the State Council.

While the compensation wrangles continue, some 97 owners have accepted a rent subsidy of 100 yuan per square meter per month.


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