Civilian heroes show perseverance of Chinese people fighting floods
Published: Jul 22, 2021 11:08 PM Updated: Jul 23, 2021 12:06 AM
Two stranded residents were transferred out from the deep-watered area. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Two stranded residents were transferred out from the deep-watered area. Photo: Li Hao/GT

As the unprecedented heavy rainfall in Henan Province severely strained local disaster rescue capacity and central authorities dispatched soldiers and rescue teams, ordinary residents in Zhengzhou have been offering help to those struck by emergencies or in need, making themselves true heroes.

"Civilian heroes" has become one of the most commonly seen tags on Chinese social media. Under the tag are widely circulating videos and stories of passers-by risking their lives to save those being washed away in surging floods, residents offering accommodations, hot noodles and water to those stranded in the city, and volunteers working around the clock to collect and spread information for those in need of rescue.

"Nothing can knock down the heroic Chinese people," said Chen Zheng, a 42-year-old Zhengzhou resident who helped save a drowning woman in a flooded puddle on Wednesday. He and five other people formed a "human string" holding hands, and pulled the woman out of danger after 10 minutes. 

One veteran soldier surnamed Wu, who the Global Times reporter met in a rescue site in Zhengzhou, said even though his own house was flooded as well, he still decided to join the rescue team. 

The 50-year-old man was an honorary title recipient in the 1998 flood fight. "I stayed in Hubei for a whole month then. Now I finally have the opportunity to make contribution to my hometown when it is in danger," he said. 

On Tuesday evening, the Zhengzhou government informed residents that Changzhuang Reservoir, located in the west side of the city, will release water, and asked villagers downstream to leave their homes as soon as possible as water may flood the villages at the banks. 

Among the large number of evacuated villagers, some chose to take the opposite way to the dangerous riverside ready to fight the flood. A villager told the Global Times that he was one of the local members of the Communist Party of China who went up to confront the flood, throwing sandbags around the banks, guiding the locals, and directing traffic. With their efforts, 20,000 villagers were safely evacuated. 

On the other side of the rescue stories, a pregnant woman was saved from her house with complete loss of water and power on Wednesday night, and she expressed her deep gratitude to the unsung heroes who spent four hours with unremitting efforts. 

She was trapped in her home for 24 hours, and was later rescued and escorted to the maternity department of a nearby hospital. She said she felt reassured when she saw the rescue workers, and they had been taking very good care of her.

Heavy rains and flooding have paralyzed the transportation systems of cities and towns, leaving people unable to return to their homes. Starting from Tuesday, China's social media platforms have been filled with Henan people's messages asking for help. 

Their voices were picked up by internet users all over China. Netizens have set up an information network for those calling for help, making them more likely to be seen and saved. Volunteer groups are collecting and verifying information online and sending it to authorities. 

Qu Jiaying is a volunteer that the Global Times reporter met in Zhengzhou. She said she and her friends were up almost all night since Tuesday, sorting out messages of people in need. 

At 1:30 am on Thursday, Qu drove to the flooded road to deliver water and hot food to rescue workers and provided free accommodations, bathing, meals and transport for reporters on site. Along the way, she still kept answering phone calls and organizing information online. 

In Erqi district, one of the worst-hit areas in Zhengzhou, a citizen working at a notary office surnamed Wang had to stay inside the company building overnight from Tuesday.

"The rain had cut off electricity and water. Luckily, a real estate agency downstairs took us all in," she said with gratitude. "They offered us chargers and water for free."

Bai is another volunteer who "wanted to make a contribution" in the great fight against the disaster. 

He chose to come to Zhengzhou Railway Station, where travelers were trapped due to the heavy rain, and brought lunch for them. 

He and his team worked all night and offered over 1,000 boxes of food, plus crackers and bottled water to the children and the elderly from Wednesday evening to Thursday morning.

"My father used to go to the frontline to combat the flood. As a citizen in Zhengzhou, I just want to do something to help," he told the Global Times.

The rainfall in Henan has killed 33 people, with eight still missing as of Thursday, according to the local emergency management bureau. 

"When walking on the roads these two days, I see people constantly helping each other. Even those grumpy taxi drivers were very gentle on the congested roads," said Bai.

"I can feel the perseverance and unity of Chinese people in the face of the disaster. Words cannot express how touched I have been," he added.