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May 6, 2014

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Demolition boss held over building collapse

THE leader of a demolition team who rented out houses that collapsed on Sunday morning killing two people and injuring three others is being held by police in Hongkou District.

It is alleged that the man, surnamed Dai, rented houses due for demolition to out-of-towners who ran small businesses in the community.

Dai, 60, a native of Qidong in east China, was said to have begun renting out houses on Xingang Road in the Hongzhen Old Street area when residents were relocated for a real estate project.

Neighbors said Dai had also built single-story houses in the area to lease for a lower rent.

The building that collapsed on Sunday comprised a three-story private house and three single-story homes that Dai is alleged to have added illegally.

One of the men who died, a 71-year-old Shanghainese man surnamed Lu, lived in the main house. The other was a sugarcane seller surnamed Zhang from Jiangxi Province who had rented one of the smaller properties.

Feng Chaobing, 22, who suffered spinal injuries, is believed to be still in hospital though there was no word on his condition last night.

The other two victims left hospital after treatment for minor injuries.

The demolition team was hired by the developer to clear the site in 2002. While most of the residents had been relocated, 97 families remained on the site as they were still locked in negotiations over compensation payments, and this led to the demolition work being halted, the district government said in a statement late yesterday.

Neighbors said some houses had been subdivided and were shared by several families.

They said the families used electricity for cooking as it was free in the neighborhood since it was scheduled for demolition.

Some said the excessive use of electricity resulted in frequent fires in communities scheduled for demolition because of a lack of maintenance.

However, Hongkou District officials said an initial investigation had found that there was an explosion in the main house causing it to collapse and take three adjoining houses with it.

The possibility that the explosion was caused by gas could not be ruled out, it said. The district government said last night it will launch a campaign among residents on how to use cooking gas safely.


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