As many as 100,000 people are residing in 533 old apartment buildings in Ho Chi Minh City despite the fact that they may collapse at any time.
The buildings contain over 50,640 apartments, all built before 1975, and have seriously deteriorated.
Many of the places are marked to be demolished but have remained barely standing for years due to a lack of investment from the government.
So residents have been exposed to great danger since the apartments may collapse any time, according to the assessment of local authorities.
Pham Van Khuong is a resident in lot K of the Ngo Gia Tu apartment block in District 10.
He says his family moved into an apartment of 30 square meters in 1971.
It has seriously deteriorated, with cracked walls exposing rusty steel inside.
Rains cause water to be absorbed from the roof and leak through the walls, floors, and stairs below.
Some stairs are closed for fear that visitors who are unaware will be exposed to serious injury by using them.
The electricity grid and water pipes are intertwined with each other because they have been installed or repaired by residents.
“It is decrepit but we have to stay here because we have no place to move,” Khuong admitted.
Tran Thi Ngoc Le was shielding her room with plastic sheets from leaking rainwater when Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper journalists visited her apartment in lot M one day.
Le said the Ngo Gia Tu apartment building was built in 1968, or 47 years ago, and its foundation and walls have severely degraded.
It is so damaged that locals cannot repair or upgrade the block, she complained.
In other apartments, residents have renovated them in order to create more space and have altered the original design.
This means the air flow and foot-traffic inside the apartment buildings are no longer well secured.
As a result, it becomes humid inside these places, with dwellers often moving their beds into the corridors in order to get some sleep. This makes the dilapidated apartments look even worse.
At 727 Tran Hung Dao Street in District 5, a local living on the ground floor warned the Tuoi Tre reporters, “it’s dangerous over there and you should not come up there.”
Upper floors were cracked, exposing steel inside and the iron bars of the balcony were rusted.
City authorities had planned to relocate residents and demolish 25 of the worst apartment buildings in the 2011-15 period but only eight have been removed so far.
Other apartment buildings in poor condition include Nguyen Thien Thuat in District 3, Truc Giang in District 4, An Quang in District 10, Co Giang in District 1, and Thanh Da in Binh Thanh District.
However they are all accommodating hundreds of residents now.
Response from authorities: planning
According to the Ministry of Construction, it is planning to make a comprehensive check on dilapidated apartments all over the country.
It will submit a plan for the check to the central government this month and will carry it out next year.
Ho Chi Minh City planned to disassemble 445,000 square meters of outdated apartments during 2011-15 and have completed 60 percent of the plan to date.
The slow progress has been blamed on the lack of investment and the current slowdown in the real estate market.