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December 9, 2010

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Residents to visit homes in blaze-hit block

RESIDENTS from the 28-floor Shanghai tower block that caught fire in November will be allowed back into their homes to claim undamaged possessions and make a list of their losses, according to the latest compensation plan.

The building's 156 households can choose local valuers to estimate their losses, said a draft released to affected families for their comments. There's no timetable for the visits so far.

The fees for valuation services are expected to be covered by the companies held responsible for the fire in downtown Jing'an District on November 15 which claimed 58 lives.

"The draft has not yet touched the key issue of compensation, which is understandable as there are so many people and departments involved," said a female resident who didn't want to be named. She was not at home when the fire broke out.

District government officials are still collecting details from the households affected after the release of a previous compensation plan late last month.

"The demands vary from each household, and I don't think the government will be able to satisfy everyone," the woman said.

Families will be allowed to visit the scene of the fire together with valuation staff and police, as well as task forces investigating the fire, according to the draft.

Residents can get any undamaged household items back after they have been registered.

The draft outlines the types of possessions that can be claimed for, including decorations, furniture, appliances, clothes, and valuable items such as jewelry, cash and antiques.

After the evaluation reports have been released, the families can negotiate compensation with the companies blamed for the fire.

If they are not satisfied with the amounts on offer, they have the option of bringing lawsuits, officials said.

However, some families who lost relatives in the inferno said the property issue was not a priority as they had not yet settled on the offer of compensation of 960,000 yuan (US$144,480) for each victim.

One resident, surnamed Chen, who lost his 24-year-old daughter, said he had not accepted the money.

Chen was among those who signed a petition calling on the government to further investigate the fire.

The petition said the compensation plans "lacked transparency" and so far there was "no timetable concerning the distribution of public donations."

The petition also demanded that families be allowed to go to the apartments in the damaged building soon and learn more details about the deaths of their loved ones.

"We just want fair treatment and sincere comfort," the petition said. "We are not stroppy citizens but we are not fools, either."


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