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August 31, 2010

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Residents fret after roof falls

WANG Xiurong, her left foot wrapped in bandage, recalled her lucky escape from a horrible roof-collapse on Sunday morning.

The 50-year-old local woman, living on the ground floor of the two-level dilapidated house in Lane 814 on Tiantong Road, Zhabei District, suffered minor injuries to her left foot after half of the house's roof collapsed and smashed to the ground.

Wang and other affected households, numbering about 16, now live in a temporary accommodation but are not sure whether they want to move back.

"They just gave us 1,050 yuan (US$154) per household and told us to find living quarters for a week," Wang said yesterday. "After that, I don't know."

The mishap happened at 9:55am on Sunday when half of the roof of the two-story No. 20 and No. 22 crashed. The roof smashed through the second floor and damaged the first floor. Wang lived with her daughter at No. 20 and was at home alone at the time.

Work to repair and consolidate the affected building was under way yesterday with a wooden frame covered with rainproof cloth installed to protect the property from rain and reinforce the building.

The roof collapse has sparked worries among residents of nearby houses. About 400 households in this old neighborhood live in similar low-buildings. Despite repeated pleas to housing authorities to fix the aged buildings, suffering from architectural issues such as holes in the roofs, repair efforts had been slack before the accident, residents complained yesterday.

"Had it not been for the collapse, they would never have come and installed the wooden frames," said Wang Yuelan, whose parents, both in their 80s, live opposite the collapsed house.

Neighbors said the government had stopped caring about their safety since the area was earmarked for demolition eight years ago. Almost every household has leaking roofs and the residents could only carry out repairs on their own.

However, officials of the Beitang Neighborhood Committee said they have been doing repair works on the building from time to time. "But they're too old, and cannot be completely fixed," said an official who declined to give her name.

It's now up to the residents themselves whether they want to move back, since the 400-plus families in the area are expected to be relocated in the near future, she added.

Yesterday, as a crowd of residents looked on at the collapsed structure, one question kept nagging at them: How can they be safe in their dilapidated homes, especially as a tropical storm is set to hit the city in a couple of weeks.


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