Struggling to rebuild lives from Block J's rubble

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 January, 2011, 12:00am

One year on, former residents forced out of Ma Tau Wai Road have settled into new homes but are struggling to recover from the trauma.

Li Zhenhua moved to a newly furnished public rental flat in nearby Ma Tau Wai Estate but her sleep is regularly punctured by nightmares.

Li has been seeing a psychologist since her 20-year-old son, Tong Qingtao, died in the building collapse. She was out working that day while her son studied at home, a sub-divided flat in Block J, which collapsed into rubble in January last year.

'This place is a thousand times better than the old one,' Li said. 'The other place was small and shabby, but my son and I were happy with our lives ... now I have to start all over again.'

Tong was one of four who died. The others were a 41-year-old man and two prostitutes. But Li recently received a piece of good news. Her 30-year-old daughter, who lives in Fujian , learned this week that her application for permanent residency in Hong Kong had been accepted by mainland authorities.

'I really hope she can come to me soon and keep me company and support me. I also want to get a job when I feel better. I don't want to live on welfare,' she said.

Li, who used to work in a home for the elderly, said she also wanted to express gratitude to the charities that had helped her.

She said she might go to court next month to hear the case of the contractor so she could learn what exactly happened. She might also file a civil claim, but that would have to wait until a Coroner's Court issued a verdict.

Times were also tougher for Ma Kwong-chung and his wife, who was trying to recover from a stroke when the collapse occurred. The couple lived in a rooftop flat in Block G, which was later demolished because it was structurally linked to Block J. Ma said they now lived in a subsidised flat in Ho Man Tin but his wife's condition had worsened since the tragedy.

About 15 families displaced by the collapse were resettled in public housing estates in Ho Man Tin, Wong Tai Sin and Kwai Chung, according to Kowloon City district councillor Rosanda Mok Ka-han.

Another five families with higher incomes had to look for new homes on their own.

Councillor Pius Yum Kwok-tung said most tenants in the neighbouring E and F blocks had moved out. But others had signed one-year leases without knowing that they could have to relocate within that time if redevelopment starts this year.

'Some people did not know the buildings were to be redeveloped by the Urban Renewal Authority, nor did their agents tell them,' Yum said.