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May 5, 2014

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2 die, 3 hurt as houses collapse

TWO men died and three people were injured when a row of houses scheduled for demolition collapsed in downtown Shanghai early yesterday.

The accident happened shortly before 5am when there were nine people in the building on Xingang Road in the city’s Hongkou District.

Fourteen rescue teams and 23 fire trucks were sent to the scene.

Four people managed to escape while the five others were pulled out by rescuers.

Hospital staff later confirmed that two men pulled from the debris had died. The three injured survivors were sent to nearby Xinhua Hospital.

Clothes, shoes, a refrigerator, a TV set and other household appliances could be seen scattered among the debris from the wood and brick structure.

The building that collapsed comprised a three-story house and three single story houses which had been added illegally, according to local officials.

Neighbors said a Shanghainese couple in their 70s lived in the main house while the other victims were out-of-towners who had rented the smaller houses from the relocation office, which should have demolished the building after the original owners were relocated for a real estate project.

One neighbor, a man surnamed Shi, said: “We were awakened by a huge bang in the morning and thought there was an earthquake. When I rushed out, I found some houses had collapsed and dust was rising from them.” Shi said one of the dead was a 71-year-old man surnamed Lu, while the other was an out-of-towner who sold sugarcane.

The person most seriously injured was 22-year-old Feng Chaobing who was surfing online when his house collapsed around him. He suffered spinal injuries. The others only suffered slight bruising, according to hospital officials.

The four who escaped were Lu’s wife Song Fudi, a couple who sold belts, and their daughter.

Subject of relocation plan

Neighbors said there was smell of gas but it was found the gas had leaked from a pipeline of a nearby house which had been damaged by falling bricks. A neighbor surnamed Jin believed that the building collapsed because it was dilapidated, as most of the nearby houses are.

“If it was a gas blast, there should be fire and smoke, but I saw only dust about 30 seconds after I heard the sound.”

Chen, a former neighborhood committee worker, said the neighborhood had been the subject of a relocation plan in 2002 but later seemed to have been forgotten about.

“Some people had come to my house to measure the size and asked for information of my family members. But when we refused their compensation scheme, which said the developers will pay about 70,000 yuan (US$11,182) for each one with a residence permit in the house, they never turned up again in the following 12 years,” she said.

Some residents said they were keen to move out of the neighborhood but the compensation offered was too low for them to buy a new house in Shanghai.

Others said their old houses had been put at risk by the construction of an underground parking lot for a nearby modern residential community.

A man surnamed Qian said the walls of his four-story building began to crack due to subsidence in 2005.

Developers moved Qian’s family and some other people to a hotel, but 15 days later they were allowed home after their houses had been reinforced with a steel frame.

Though residents regarded their homes as dangerous, the local government said they had not been officially identified as dangerous structures.

After yesterday’s incident, however, people living nearest to the collapsed building have been evacuated temporarily for inspection and repairs to be carried out.

The district government has set up an emergency team to investigate the accident.

“The nearby residents will be moved if nearby buildings have safety risks,” an official said.

The residential area known as the Hongzhen Old Street section is the last remaining large slum downtown. Most of the residents have been moved out as part of a district government program.


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