Survivors of Hanoi apartment fire anxiously wait for support

By Viet An, Hong Chieu, Viet Tuan   October 31, 2023 | 05:47 am PT
Survivors of Hanoi apartment fire anxiously wait for support
A person donates money to victims of a Hanoi mini apartment fire in Khuong Dinh Ward, Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi, Sept. 14, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Phuong Linh
Following the aftermath of the deadly Hanoi mini apartment fire in September, several affected families have had to take temporary shelter while waiting for support money to arrive.

Six weeks after the blaze, the mini apartment building on Khuong Ha Street, Thanh Xuan District is still barricaded and covered in sheets. Security forces are stationed night and day, preventing theft.

Families in the building are now scattered in different places, mostly staying with their loved ones.

Nguyen Cong Huy’s four-member family used to live in apartment 201, but now they are living with Huy’s sister, who lives near the scene of the fire. Huy’s family was among the first to come to the mini apartment building, back when it was built in 2016.

New life elsewhere

"Nearly all my properties are gone. I’m virtually empty-handed now," Huy said, adding that his family still have regular health checks per doctor’s orders.

Since the fire, Huy still flinches whenever he sees sparks coming from a welder. He returns to work, though his life has turned completely upside down.

The people of the mini apartment building have come together to discuss how to move forward. Huy said families all want to move away to a different place as the old apartment’s structure is no longer safe.

The family has so far received VND160 million ($6,512) from authorities of Khuong Dinh Ward to make ends meet. Huy plans to use the money, plus other donations and more support money, to buy another place.

Another family in the same situation, Nguyen Thi Hoa and her husband are currently living in their children’s house. Their apartment on the second floor has been reduced to dust, with steel beams left exposed.

The couple anxiously wait for the support money to come so they can look for a new place, not wanting to burden their children for too long.

Hoa said she has already been used to her lifestyle and the streets in Khuong Dinh, so she wants to look for a place near her old apartment.

"It would be hard to return to the old apartment and live there," she said.

Doctor Vu Thi Nhung, among the most severely injured victims in the fire hospitalized at the Bach Mai Hospital, returned to work after around a week. Her health has mostly recovered, but she still requires monitoring due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Nhung has sent her children back to her hometown so they can be taken care of by their grandparents, while she, her husband and a sister rent a place to live. Following the fire, her family returned to the old apartment twice to get their papers and clothes, but could not take back any valuables as the apartment building is currently sealed.

"I could only take an old rice cooker," she said.

Each member of Nhung’s family will get VND40 million from Hanoi authorities, and an additional VND7 million from Thanh Xuan District. Three motorbikes of the family were destroyed in the fire, and they have received two new ones to get to work. Nhung said if they get the support money, the family will move somewhere else.

One-time payment

Pham Anh Tuan, vice chairman of the Hanoi Fatherland Front Committee, said the Front had received over VND130 billion as donations from organizations and individuals.

Before building a concrete distribution plan, the Thanh Xuan District Fatherland Front has extracted VND6 billion from the donations to immediately support survivors with VND40 million each. The city has also extracted VND9 billion from its budget to aid in various costs, including resettlement, funerals and tuition.

On comments that the Hanoi fronts are distributing its resources too slowly, Tuan said the time period for receiving and distributing resources was still within regulations.

Specifically, the time period for receiving donations must not exceed 90 days from when after the drive began.

The distribution of resources must be carried out within 20 days after donations are no longer being received. Donations were stopped on Oct. 16.

The Hanoi Fatherland Front Committee said it has completed the plan regarding the support money, and was expected to announce it before Nov. 6. Thanh Xuan District will distribute the support money to victims immediately after that.

The money will come as a one-time payment in cash, Tuan said, adding that the Committee did not take resettlement support into account as each family would have their own plans.

On how the distribution would work, Tuan said it would be carried out as instructed, based on the amount of money, the degree of damage and the families’ demands, among other factors. Tuan did not specify the exact details but said the support money would be distributed on a case-by-case basis.

On the sidelines of the National Assembly on Tuesday, Truong Thi Ngoc Anh, vice chairwoman of the Central Committee the Vietnam Fatherland Front, said that most of the donated resources were concentrated in Thanh Xuan District. The Hanoi Fatherland Front has also received support from other areas and major businesses.

Anh said there needed to be enough time to check the process carefully, and for there to be appropriate policies.

The Hanoi mini apartment fire in mid-September resulted in 56 deaths and left 37 injured. The owner of the building has been detained for four months pending an investigation into the incident.

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