Thu, June 16, 2011
China > Mainland > China battles floods

Trapped villagers hail firefighters as heroes

2011-06-16 03:32:10 GMT2011-06-16 11:32:10(Beijing Time)  China Daily

A driver puts his mechanical digger to good use as he helps an elderly woman and her granddaughter on a flooded street in Xianning, Hubei province, on Wednesday. Floods in central and southern parts of China have killed at least 105 people and 65 others are missing. [Photo by Darley Wong / Reuters]

WANGMO, Guizhou - When 48-year-old Huang Daxiang recalled the night he and his mother were saved from the torrential floods that annihilated his hometown, he kept saying: "thanks to the heroes."

Huang lives in a village 3 kilometers from the downtown area of Wangmo county, Southwest China's Guizhou province, and his brush with death took place on the night of June 6 when he was sleeping at home.

"Around midnight, I was awakened by the sound of rushing water," said Huang.

The electric light failed to work and he suddenly found his house, which is just dozens of meters away from the riverbank, waterlogged.

"The flood was already 1-meter-deep outside," he said.

He asked his wife to find a higher place to hide and rushed to his brother's house next door, where his 71-year-old mother lives.

"My mother lives there alone as my brother and his wife work in another county," he said.

He carried his mother outside but a wave of water strong enough to carry uprooted tree trunks hit him.

"My knees were seriously injured and we both fell into the water," he said.

However, at the moment when he could barely stand up again and he thought they were going to die, a firm hand pulled him up.

"It took me several attempts to pull them back and stop them from being swept away," said 29-year-old Liu Longhui, a firefighter from Wangmo.

Liu's team of 11 firemen received the order to help a village that is 70 km from the county's downtown that night, but they were stopped at Huang's by the rampant floodwater.

"We shut off the truck's engine when the wave engulfed us," said 25-year-old Luo Zuliang, a team member.

When the firefighters disembarked from their trucks, the water was waist-deep. Later, one of the trucks was flushed away.

The team had to walk slowly arm in arm with the help of the dim light from flashlights on their helmets, to avoid being washed away by the flood. But despite the difficult conditions, Liu and his team saved four people's lives, including Huang and his mother.

As the water level continued to rise, the team gathered another 20 villagers at the doorway of 41-year-old Wang Zhanling's three-story house, the tallest construction nearby.

But when asked to open the door, the frightened man did nothing, so Li Yuanshao, the team's driver, broke into the house.

More than 30 people, who ran to the top of the building, were saved by Li's action, as the flood soon swamped the second floor.

"The thought of death never crossed my mind when the flood hit us," said 27-year-old Li. "The only thing I had in my mind was rescuing lives ... that is our job."

Unfortunately, one villager who was not with them died.

The firefighters of Wangmo have saved more than 120 lives so far, said Zhao Sheng, an official from the provincial fire service department.

"Without them, I would not have the chance to talk here, and to see my family again," said Huang, leaning on a stick. "They are the true heroes."

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