A FOOD scraper who has suffered constant pain since the building she was working in collapsed, burying her under a pile of debris, was yesterday awarded more than $560,000. Cheung Yin-ying, 31, who can no longer bend her head since an emergency operation fused her neckbones, won $563,220 in lost wages and medical expenses from her employers. The Cheung Kee Restaurant's owners had told the District Court Ms Cheung was not really injured at work because she was on a 'rest break' when the ceiling caved in. Ms Cheung and her three children lived in a cubicle at the front of the building in Bonham Strand West, Sheung Wan. Six days a week, from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm, she went to a cooked-food stall in the adjacent alleyway to gut and clean goose carcasses and scrape the skin from the heads of dead pigs. At about 11 am on October 8, 1990, Ms Cheung was on the second floor of the building preparing fish for sale in the dai pai dong downstairs. Suddenly, she heard the roar of falling debris. In a panic, she ran towards the back of the building. The impulse was to cost her dearly. The rear of the building collapsed around her, crushing her neck bones and burying her in debris. The accident left her with chronic pain and limited mobility, which in turn led to psychiatric problems. Unable to bend her head, Ms Cheung sought compensation under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance. She said she was entitled to the money as her injuries were sustained in the course of her work. Her employer, Cheung Sui-shing, fought the move, arguing her duties as a casual food cleaner did not require her to use the kitchen. 'As it was not part of [her] duties to cook . . . she could not have been performing her duties in the kitchen,' the restaurant owner said. 'At the time of the collapse, she was having a rest period, she was not in the alleyway where she performed her duties, therefore she was not injured in the course of her employment.' Judge Kwan noted Ms Cheung's limited education and work experience severly undermined her chances of finding a job that did not require bending her neck. She said she believed Ms Cheung's claim she was using the kitchen to wash fish for the food stall. The judge described the injured woman as softly spoken and 'very frail'. 'Despite this she answered questions put to her in a forthright manner without hesitation. I found her story to be straightforward and plausible.' Ms Cheung submitted two medical reports supporting her case. Dr David Lee concluded that she had lost 100 per cent of her earning capacity. 'She might even need somebody to look after her from time to time if she happened to go out to do something,' Dr Lee said.