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December 14, 2010

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Home » Metro » Environment

Slum conditions in shadow of the Bund

NEXT to the wealth and glamor of the Bund, hundreds of city householders are living in an almost derelict building which they fear could collapse at any moment.

Residents in the subsiding 100-year-old block are often forced to flee their apartments in panic in the dead of night when the whole building shakes violently.

But once outside, they discover that there hasn't been an earthquake, only a heavy-loaded truck passing.

Living in constant fear and anxiety, the 73 households, about 200 people most of whom are elderly people, are demanding the government do something about the decrepit four-storey building on Zhongshan Road E2 - next door to the Bund's banks, bars and protected architecture.

It is almost impossible to discover the building, No. 13, as it is lost among surrounding shiny high-rises, with only one shabby entrance.

"It's hard to imagine, isn't it? A 21-century slum residence by the Bund in modern Shanghai," said Cui Haizhou, a 62-year-old resident.

The building, named Gangsi Building, was built in 1910 as dormitories for workers from a British ship company. But after 100 years without much maintenance, the building is now seriously subsiding, and getting worse by the day.

Cracks have appeared on walls on all the floors, some as wide as a fist. Yesterday, residents had to cope with rain flowing through these.

However, local housing department and the property management company have done nothing in recent years except cosmetic work on the cracks and installing wooden supports to bolster the tilting building.

Xue Zhaodi, a 63-year-old woman almost wept as she recounted how on one occasion when the building was shaking violently, a wooden ladder fell, breaking her arms.

Listening is her 85-year-old father, who is suffering from cancer, lying on the bed and wrapped in several quilts as some protection from rain coming down the wall.

"The building has been my home for 60 years," said Xue, "I just want the authorities to fix these problems so we can be rid of this nightmare."

But an official with the building's property management company, Huangpu Land Group Co, told that they had not conducted repairs as residents wanted relocation instead.

This is disputed by residents. "Liars. They didn't even talk to us," said Cui.

There were wonderful times, he said, when they could see the Bund from their windows to the east and People's Square to the west.


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