Tue, Dec 23, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Building destroyed by 921 quake finally being rebuilt

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A former resident of the Tunghsing Building in Taipei looks at an artist's representation of a new building to be constructed on the site. The original building collapsed in the 921 earthquake in 1999.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

After a long wait of more than four years, a ground-breaking ceremony was held yesterday to mark the start of the reconstruction of the Tung-hsing Building (東星大樓), which collapsed in the 921 earthquake, causing heavy casualties.

The Tunghsing Building had been leveled by the earthquake, which registered 7.3 on the Richter scale, on Sept. 21, 1999. The collapse of the 12-story building, at the intersection of Bade Road and Hulin Street, claimed the lives of 87 people and injured 138 others. More than 250 people were left homeless.

With mixed feelings of grief and joy, 73 former residents yesterday participated in the groundbreaking ceremony. Many residents' eyes were blurred by tears.

"I don't know what to say except that I am grateful. But we can't cry. On the contrary, we should be happy for the new start," said Liao Tsun-chu (廖春菊), chief of the Tunghsing Building Residents' Reconstruction Committee, who presided over yesterday's ceremony.

According to Liao, the reconstruction is estimated to take two years and three months. It should be completed in 2006 and will cost around NT$336 million. The national government has allocated NT$200 million for the rebuilding, and about NT$80 million came from donations toward reconstruction following the 921 quake.

The rest of the costs will be paid by First Commercial Bank, which owned the ground and second floors of the building. All property rights will still belong to the original householders, Liao said.

Last year, the Taipei City district court ruled that the city government must pay about NT$480 million to the building's former residents as compensation for losses caused by the earthquake.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who also participated in yesterday's ceremony, said that the city has already paid NT$100 million to the residents and promised that it will "stand by the residents at any time if they need help."

However, some of the former residents expressed disappointment about the long time it took for the reconstruction to start.

"Compared with the other buildings that were damaged by the quake, the progress of Tunghsing's reconstruction is too slow to make us feel happy," said Chen Chun-heng (陳俊亨), chief of the managing committee of the Tunghsing Building.

Tiffany Lee (李舜涵), representative of the Tunghsing Building Self-help Association (東星大樓自救委員會), who lost her mother during the earthquake, stressed that what the residents really wanted was to find out what the real cause of the building's collapse had been.

"Every step of the reconstruction was pushed by the residents' protest. In my opinion, the city government did not provide any actual assistance, although it set up a special panel to handle the reconstruction," Lee said.

Lee and Chen said they are not satisfied with the decision not to prosecute personnel of the Office of Building Standards (建管處).

"So far we have not seen anyone apologize for the tragedy, which the Control Yuan's investigation showed to have resulted from human negligence in the construction," Lee said.

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