News on 7 September 2016

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1) Ho Chi Minh City poised to pull down hundreds of old tenements

Ho Chi Minh City is set to rebuild at least 237 of its oldest apartment buildings by 2020, resulting in better safety and convenience for residents. The municipal Party Committee has ordered that a minimum of 50 percent of 474 dilapidated apartment complexes across the southern hub be demolished and re-built. The city’s Department of Construction has announced the results of its inspection of several run-down buildings deemed high risk. One apartment building on Tran Hung Dao Street in District 5 was evaluated as dangerously run down and required to be demolished urgently. Residents at the venue had been well aware of the building’s poor condition with cracks growing larger inside the walls over the passing decades. The staircase is dark and can only fit one person while the building materials of several balconies can easily be separated and fall onto people or vehicles traveling below. According to Tran Nghieng Nhan, a resident of the apartment building since 1961, her 16 square meter studio is where her family members eat, sleep, and conduct their small textile business operations. As authorities are set to renovate the structure, Nhan hoped that she could resettle elsewhere in order to keep her business operation from being affected.

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2) Depleted by pollution disaster, families struggle to get kids to school

Summer is over but nearly 1,000 children from Ky Ha, a fishing community in the central province of Ha Tinh, cannot return to school just yet. Still reeling from the effects of an unprecedented toxic spill linked to Taiwan’s Formosa, many families along the central coast are now waiting for government assistance to be able to think about education again. Nguyen Thi Huong, a mother, said locals have deserted their salt fields and boats since tons of dead fish washed ashore along the coast in Ha Tinh and nearby provinces in April, creating a seafood scare across the country and taking away the livelihood of various fishing communities. “Four of my kids should be in school but in tough times like these, they just have to stay at home,” she said, as cited by VnExpress. Huong said she has asked the authorities to waive the school fees. “Then I can send them back to school.” The mass fish deaths are believed to be Vietnam’s worst environment disaster ever. More than 200,000 people, including 41,000 fishermen, have been directly affected. Although the central government last month announced that the sea is now "safe," a Ha Tinh local said fish and salt from the province are still "very hard to sell."

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3) South China Sea: Vietnam airport screens hacked

Flight display screens at Vietnam's two largest airports were hacked to show messages criticising Vietnam's claims of territory in the South China Sea. China's territorial claims, which overlap with Vietnam's, were recently rejected by an international tribunal. Screens and sound systems at Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City airports broadcast anti-Vietnamese and Philippines slogans on Friday. Vietnam's transport ministry said a Chinese hacker was responsible. Vietnam Airlines' website was also briefly hacked. Media in Vietnam reported that staff at the airports had to resort to checking in passengers manually, avoiding computers for several hours. The hack comes days after a row involving a Chinese tourist at one of the hacked airports - Tan Son Nhat, in Ho Chi Minh City. China asked Vietnam to investigate reports that a Chinese visitor's passport was handed back with obscenities written on two pages. Pictures show a four-letter word written on the pages that contain a map including China's "nine-dash line", that marks China's claim to territories in the South China Sea.

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4) Ho Chi Minh City to speed up reconstruction of dilapidated apartments

As renovations to old apartment buildings in Ho Chi Minh City continue with slow results, local authorities have proposed new measures to expedite the process. The municipal Party Committee has recently ordered that about 237 of the city’s oldest apartment complexes be pulled down and reconstructed by 2020 to ensure safety for residents and improve urban esthetics. Several members of the public have expressed their skepticism however, saying that this will be difficult to achieve based on the sluggish efforts over the past several years. A number of dilapidated tenements have been on the radar of local authorities for up to ten years, some even longer, but are still yet to be improved. For example, the 727 Tran Hung Dao apartment building in District 5 was rated as dangerously run down and has been set to be re-built since 1993. About 500 households living inside the structure began relocating in 2008, Pham Quoc Huy, chairman of the People’s Committee in District 5 said, adding that the relocation was complete in June this year, allowing the tenement to be demolished this month. Four blocks of the Co Giang apartment building in District 1 have been evaluated as severely deteriorated since 2011, with the local administration ordering the urgent relocation of residents. However, about 100 households have yet to move out as they are still to reach a settlement with the investor of the project.
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