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Stories of the Brave and the Perseverant

Two post-921 rebuilding projects set example for disaster recovery

 
九二一震災之後,災區社區住戶超過100戶的大樓--台中縣霧峰鄉太子吉第大樓—由住戶成立都市更新會,規劃及執行原地重建的工作,成為其他重建大樓的範本。
 

By Roger Chou can staff writer
 
A peculiar white structure built of cardboard columns stands quietly aside a river across from Taoyuan Elementary School in the rural community of Taomi in Puli Township.

As unusual as it may be, the so-called Paper Dome from Japan has become the landmark of the community, but it has an even more significant mission: to serve as a platform to exchange community-building and post-earthquake reconstruction experiences, both within Taiwan and with communities in other countries.

"We hope this (the Paper Dome) will become a powerhouse, " said Liao Chia-chan, chairman of the Puli-based nonprofit New Homeland Foundation, which is working to build a network that links together the local communities affected by the Sept. 21, 1999 earthquake.

Wufeng and Donshih, two of the towns in central Taiwan worst-hit by a powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake on Sept. 21, 1999, were home to two successful examples of how to rebuild communities after a major natural disaster.

The 921 earthquake, centered in Jiji, Nantou County, left 2,416 people dead or missing and over 11,000 severely wounded. Some 44,000 homes were completely destroyed in the quake, and the total damage was estimated at NT$300 billion (US$9.2 billion).

Residents of the“Tai-tzu-chi-ti”condominiums, a housing project in Taichung County's Wufeng Township with more than 200 households that collapsed in the quake, showed what can be accomplished when people work together.


Pi-Feng bridge in Donshih was severely damaged in the 921Earthquake. (Sep 29, 1999 CNA)

Meanwhile, the reconstruction of a 14-floor residential building in Dongshih, was an example of building owners working with the government to rebuild their homes -- and lives -- on state-owned land.

Yu Tsung-hsiao, a labor activist and resident of the “Tai-tzu-chi-ti” housing complex in Wufeng, was the key coordinator of that community's project throughout the reconstruction process.

“I promised my son that we would move back to our “new house, “ said Yu, whose family had settled in the residential building just days before it collapsed in the deadly earthquake.

His son, who was five years old at the time, did not realize the new home had been judged completely unsalvageable, but Yu promised to himself to complete his son's dream to have a new place to live.

Yu explained that the key to the success in rebuilding the complex on its original site was the consensus reached by its more than 200 households, who agreed to a design and then hired the original construction company to handle the project.


Historical Wunchang Temple in Donshih Taichung was destroyed by the powerful earthquake on Sep. 21, 1999. (Oct 10, 1999 CNA)

Many residents ensured the project's success by living and working with construction workers day and night, Yu said, which allowed them to re-start their lives and helped them avoid staying at temporary shelters as refugees.

With financial support from the government, the new building was finished 18 months after construction began, providing a new home to 197 households.

Yu said the government's reconstruction policies, the residents' common view of the process and the power of the community were responsible for helping him fulfill his son's dream.

Many residents ensured the project's success by living and working with construction workers day and night, Yu said, which allowed them to re-start their lives and helped them avoid staying at temporary shelters as refugees.

With financial support from the government, the new building was finished 18 months after construction began, providing a new home to 197 households.

Yu said the government's reconstruction policies, the residents' common view of the process and the power of the community were responsible for helping him fulfill his son's dream.

The Dongshih project faced a different challenge. The original apartment building was completed destroyed in the earthquake and 28 residents lost their lives, and the nearly 200 residents felt they needed to relocate their homes to a new site in the township.

Though no law existed that allowed them to exchange the destroyed site for government land, the apartment owners still applied to relocate to a public parking lot.

The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Interior helped in revising the necessary laws, paving the way for the Dongshih residents to begin their urban renewal project.

The new building was completed Dec. 17, 2006, seven years after the deadly earthquake, and the negotiation process that took place has become a model for disaster victims and government officials.

 
 
 
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