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Rescue team leader: saving lives is sacred mission

2010-04-09 15:36 BJT

Rescue workers in Wangjialing are tall and strong, and wear orange coats and red hard hats, and the white towels around their necks have turned completely black. When others gave them a thumbs-up and told them "good job!" they just waved and smiled modestly.

Their task is to search for and rescue the trapped miners in the flooded Wangjialing coal mine. Chen Yongsheng, a rescue team leader with the Shanxi Coking Coal Group Fenxi Branch, had just woken up when reporters entered the relief tent. Chen is 54 years old and had some smudges on his face and hands. He removed his overcoat and rubbed his eyes, then told reporters about his rescue experiences in Wangjialing as well as over his 32-year rescue career.

Rescue team leader: saving lives is sacred mission

Rescue team leader: saving lives is sacred mission

First time Chen had to row the raft

The raft was constantly swaying

At 10 pm on April 4, the Wangjialing coal mine was ablaze with lights, and the drainage machines roared vigorously. Chen hovered around the entrance to the mine and looked down the mineshaft from time to time. The 46 rescue team members, who were ready to begin their work, waited anxiously on the hillside nearby. A few minutes later, Chen received a command from the rescue headquarters to enter the mine and rescue the trapped miners, so he immediately shouted to the rescuers via his walkie-talkie, "Hurry up, come on!"

Chen was surprised to see the raft that headquarters had allocated them, saying "I have never seen and used the raft before in a rescue." Since he had no rowing skills, he picked two experienced rescuers. Then they all turned on their headlights and rowed down the flooded tunnel. Chen and another rescuer pulled on the oars as hard as they could, with water splashing in their faces, "I was so anxious at that time. Since we could not pull together in sync, the raft always swung and would not move straight ahead." After they roughly moved through the gloomy tunnel for some time, Chen took the other oar and rowed the raft by himself. He leaned forward and pulled on the oars as hard as he could, and then the raft became stable.

The space between the water's surface and the roof of the tunnel became narrower and narrower as they rowed forward. “The raft was almost stuck when it was only some 20 centimeters away from the roof of the tunnel, and we could not even sit up.” They had to crouch down to pull on the oars, though it was quite difficult.

Just then, they saw a beam of light through the extremely narrow gap, and also heard calls for help. Unfortunately, the raft could not move any longer. They had to hold up their hands against the roof of the tunnel and push the raft down in order to widen the space so that the raft could continue to move. "There were many objects in the tunnel which slowed the raft down. I was afraid that the trapped miners might immediately jump into the water as soon as they saw us. You know, they had been trapped for several days without any food."