For some, the nightmares remain

There was a deafening boom and then a plume of dust, says a survivor who recalls that day

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 5:12am

Three years after a deadly building collapse, the victims of Ma Tau Wai Road are still picking up the pieces.

On the afternoon of January 29, 2010, residents in Block J at 45 Ma Tau Wai Road thought an earthquake had struck.

Moments later there was a deafening boom and the five-storey building crumbled in a plume of dust. Four people died - student Tong Qingtao, 20, optician Choy Tao-keung, 40, and sex workers Lo Kin-wa, 46, and Li Qunzhen, 37.

The lives of the survivors have changed dramatically, along with those of the residents of blocks G and H, which had to be demolished because of safety concerns.

Lee Siu-mui, who had lived on the top floor of Block J with her husband and daughter, now 10, said it had been difficult to get over what happened.

"For a long time, my daughter and I had nightmares, and I had to see a psychologist for two years," she said.

While Lee's daughter appeared to have stopped having nightmares, Lee has not. "In them, I see myself stuck in a place and I just can't get out," she said.

Besides the emotional toll, the incident has cost her family a hefty sum, she said. They spent over HK$200,000 to renovate their new home at Choi Wan Estate and to buy furniture, electronics and clothing. Lee said her friends, social workers and a new job have helped her through the difficult time.

Ma Kwong-chung, a former resident of Block G, said the past three years have been difficult. He said that after the collapse, he was not able to take anything from his flat except some clothing.

"I lost all my photos. There were lots of my mum, my dad and I when I was eight or nine years old," he said. "But in the end, what was most important was that we did not get hurt."

Pius Yum Kwok-tung, Kowloon City district councillor, said the families of the dead student and optician continue to grapple with their loss. The mother of the student and widow of the optician were still seeing psychiatrists three years later, he said.

Yum estimated that some 200 people had to move as a result of the collapse. Some relocated to public housing, and some into other subdivided flats.

While some former residents stayed close by in Hung Hom, To Kwa Wan and Ma Tau Wai, others had spread out to other districts, including Tung Chung, Ngau Tau Kok and Wong Tai Sin.