Nieuws - 28 juni 2007

Hoevestein residents a week in emergency housing

Since fire broke out on the roof of the Hoevestein student flat in Wageningen, followed by a number of explosions which shook the foundations on Friday afternoon 22 June, the residents are all living elsewhere in temporary accommodation. It will be at least a week before the students can go back to live in their rooms. There were no casualties and most rooms were not damaged.

An international student with laptop and fish tank. / photo Guy Ackermans
Over 70 international students from Wageningen University and VHL Wageningen live in the apartment block, which has over 350 rooms. The first night after the fire, 65 students slept in the WICC hotel and congress centre. Others spent the night at friends or went home to their parents. By Tuesday evening, 250 tenants were in emergency housing, spread over the WICC, furnished rooms at the Bornsesteeg and Haarweg, and rooms at the Binnenhaven where Red Cross field beds had been set up.

Students in the WICC can eat there at the expense of Idealis; others can eat at the KSV mensa with a special pass that is valid through Thursday at least. Idealis is also giving all legal Hoevestein occupants 150 euros for expenses, and tenants will receive a rent rebate for the period that they cannot use their room. It will be more than a week before the occupants can return to live at Hoevestein. The heating system, electricity, lift, hot water supply and roof all need repairing. It is still unclear when the work will be completed and the building declared safe. The building has been under surveillance since Friday evening and a cleaning company has removed all perishable food from fridges and rooms.

Many students made use of the opportunity on Sunday and Monday to collect personal items after their hurried departure. ‘I quickly changed clothes when I was warned that there was a fire, and grabbed my keys and phone,’ tells Xiang Hu, who lives on the twelfth floor. ‘But I’m glad I could go and collect things like clean underwear, text books, my laptop and purse.’

Students can use the Leeuwenborch as usual in the evenings and on Saturday if they want to work or need computer facilities. Many students have exams this week and next, but the deans at the university and VHL can help them if they want to postpone an exam. Students can also discuss personal problems with the deans. Master’s student Li Yibai decided to postpone an exam. ‘I was supposed to be returning to China for a holiday next week, and now I have to extend my residence permit.’ However, he was told that he could collect his post at Hoevestein, where a letter from the IND was waiting.

Like most of the international students, Yibai is in the WICC. ‘It’s a bit boring, but at least I have enough time to study,’ he says. Tao Cheng is happier with the single room and a small desk for his laptop at the WICC than his room at Hoevestein. ‘I have a healthier life because I get three meals a day here. The only inconvenience is that I have no access to the internet; I would have to pay extra for that.’ Cheng went back on Monday to pick up some of his belongings at 16B. ‘There is water in the corridor and it’s smoky and smelly.’ One thing he heard was that there were students who had used the elevator during the fire. Maybe they didn’t realise it was an emergency. ‘But never use the elevator in case of fire,’ he warns.

Javi Andreo from 16B, who was still walking downstairs when the first explosion rocked the building, is staying in a friend’s room in the Dijkgraaf flat. An Erasmus student from Spain, Andreo will not return to Hoevestein to live, as he will return home at the end of next week. ‘But I’m not sure that I ever want to live that high in a flat again.’

The cause of the fire is not yet known. / Yvonne de Hilster, Nicolette Meerstadt

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