Fire compensation from donation, but why?

Updated: 2011-09-23 07:11

By Yu Ran (China Daily)

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SHANGHAI - Families affected by a deadly high-rise fire last year have questioned why authorities in this eastern metropolis are using public donations for compensation payments.

As of Sept 5, the Jing'an branch of the Shanghai Charity Foundation had received about 54.6 million yuan ($8.5 million) in donations, with 28.3 million yuan already given to victims and their relatives, according to a statement on Monday from the city government.

Concerned residents are demanding that a detailed list be published to break down where the donations have gone.

"We were never told that the money distributed by the government as 'consolation money' was all from public donations, rather than from the government or the people and organizations held responsible for the accident," said Wang Hong, whose mother and wife were killed.

The Nov 15 blaze, which started when unlicensed workers accidentally set fire to scaffolding around a Shanghai residential block, claimed 58 lives and injured 71 other people.

"It's not fair that the government makes zero contribution to compensate for our physical and mental losses from the accident," said Wang, who along with other victims expressed his gratitude to donors through a micro blog post on Wednesday.

According to authorities, all the money distributed as subsidies during holidays, or in summer and winter for cooling or heating bills, was also donated by the public.

So far, there is still about 26.3 million yuan to be handed over to victims, said the city government.

"We urge the government-authorized team to publish detailed accounts of the donations, along with how the money has been given to each family," Wang said.

Yuan Yulai, a lawyer representing 156 families, said it is inappropriate for the charity's Jing'an branch to take charge of donation spending.

"The special work team established to deal with the aftermath of the disaster should be responsible for the distribution of compensation and donations," he said.

Yuan added that the information provided so far is not strong enough to convince the victims' families that government has contributed to help them.

The official announcement also declared that 16.8 million yuan from the Shanghai Senior Citizens Foundation, designated for victims over 60 years old, has all been distributed.

The foundation claimed it planned to give out more than 11.7 million yuan by the end of the September, adding that the results of an audit will be released at a later date.

China Daily

(China Daily 09/23/2011 page4)