With fear in her eyes, Lu Mei-hua (
"When they [the demolition team] were taking down my neighbors' houses, I was so afraid they would tear down my home as well -- like they did many times in the past," Lu said, as she watched her three daughters playing.
After posting a notice on Feb. 14 asking all residents to leave their homes within three days, the county government sent a team on Monday to tear down the first batch of houses, most of which were left vacant after the residents moved out.
"This is classified as a flood area, and the law prohibits anyone from living here," said Wu Chen-sheng (吳振聲), a county Indigenous Peoples Bureau (IPB) official. "We're just following orders on demolishing illegal constructions."
The community is located on the east bank of Dahan River (
Most of the residents are Amis Aborigines who moved to Taipei to work as coalminers or construction workers decades ago, and their descendants.
Unable to afford housing in the city, the Amis have settled and built their homes along the riverbank in Sanying, using abandoned wooden boards, canvas, tin sheets and other materials.
"My father-in-law has been living here since he worked as a miner at the Haishan Coal mine [
The Haishan Coalmine was the second-most productive mine in the country before it was closed in 1989. The explosion Chang mentioned occurred in 1984, killing 74 miners, mostly Amis.
The county government has built apartments to help residents living in flood areas relocate.
"We conducted a census in 2002 on five Aboriginal communities that were illegally staying in flood areas along the riverbanks," Wu said.
"We found that 133 households would need housing after their homes on the riverbank were demolished," Wu said.
To solve the problem, the county government had built 150 apartments in Sansia, he said.
"In the 2002 census, we recorded 25 households in Sanying Community ... 15 of them have already moved into the new apartments," IPB chief secretary Yang Cheng-pin (楊正斌) told the Taipei Times by telephone.
However, nine more households moved into the community after the census, and thus were not registered. The problem now is finding shelter for "unregistered" households.
"We'll see what we can do and try to solve the problem before May," Wu said. "
"We'll have the 133 registered households move into the apartments first, and then we can consider having others move into the apartments if there are vacancies," he said.
After the first demolition on Monday, those who remained in the community were asked to sign an agreement volunteering to move out so that the houses could be torn down before the end of the month.
A number of households signed the agreement, but others did not.
Pan Chin-hua (
Without prior notice, the demolition team -- escorted by nearly 70 police officers, according to police sources -- moved into the community again.
Pan, who sat on a stool in front of her home in an attempt to block the demolition, was forcibly removed by police. A hydraulic shovel then came in, and Pan's house was demolished in less than five minutes despite Pan and her daughter's tears and pleadings.
"Where am I going to stay? I don't qualify for an apartment," Pan cried.
"We're just carrying out our superior's order. There's nothing we can do to help," a county Water Resource Bureau official, who declined to be named, told Pan.
"You didn't sign the agreement, so we can only [demolish your house]," said another bureau official, who also refused to give his name.
However, some of the "registered" residents, who are qualified to move into the apartments, said they cannot afford the move.
"Of course we'd love to move into an apartment if we could afford it -- who wouldn't?" Lu said.
Lu lives with his father, four brothers and her four children, including one who is less than a month old.
"My father is unemployed. One of my brothers is doing military service, while the others are still in school. I have four children to feed, and my husband is in prison," Lu said. "There's practically no one making money in this family -- how are we supposed to pay NT$6,000 in rent?"
According to the IPB, a family of six to seven can move into a three-bedroom apartment that rents for NT$6,048 a month, while a family of three to five can get a two-bedroom apartment for NT$4,536 and a family of two can get a one-bedroom unit for NT$2,267. Single people have to share an apartment with others.
Aside from rent, they have to pay utility bills.
During the interview, Lu's brother, who is attending junior high school, came home for lunch. He made a bowl of instant noodles, ate half of it and passed it around for other members of the family to share.
"My father built our home himself. It's not a perfect place to live in, it leaks when it rains, but it's still our home," Lu said. "We really don't have money. I don't know where we will go if they tear down our house."
"Of course you have to pay rent if you want to live in an apartment. Not only have we offered the apartments at a discount, but we have also waived the maintenance fee," Yang told the Taipei Times when asked if the IPB has any plans to help those who qualify for apartments but can't afford them.
"If they really don't have money, they can apply for low-income family compensation from the Social Affairs Bureau," Yang said.
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