Veteran firefighter becomes flood fighter in Jiangxi
Wu Bingjiang has remained vigilant over emergencies as a veteran firefighter, which landed him a voluntary job for flood relief in Jiangxi province earlier this month.
Wu, a native of Maoming, Guangdong province, retired from a fire squadron in Xibaipo town, Hebei province, in 2018.
While awaiting his result from his entrance examination for university studies in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, he caught the news about Jiangxi's flood emergency response being raised to the highest level on July 11.
"I felt it was serious. With fires, when it is Level 1, we get fully equipped and ready to fight 24 hours," Wu recalled.
"I thought that when the country needs me, I should stand up. Although I have retired, I should still do my part."
He immediately contacted local veteran service stations and fire brigades in Jiangxi to offer help. He then came across a post online sent by Wang Siyuan, a veteran soldier in Shanghai calling for volunteers in Jiangxi.
"As a soldier, like me, he had the heart to take action to tend to the country's needs," Wu said.
"We wanted to organize a team and go as soon as possible. A minute earlier could mean one more person saved."
On July 13, Wu took the earliest flight to Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi, and got a taxi to Yongxiu county in Jiujiang, the inundated region.
First, he arrived at a school where a shelter for evacuated people had been set up and helped distribute relief goods like food and water.
"There were many people and also many volunteers," Wu said.
"I saw a child studying in the corridor and a teacher coming to help at times. The scenario moved me in particular and inspired me to help them as quickly as possible."
Wu then moved on to Sanjiao township, which was flooded after the embankment of the Xiuhe River in Yongxiu county was breached on July 12 following continuous torrential rains. There, Wu joined Wang and 16 other team members, who were all veteran soldiers from across the country.
The team's job was to guard two bridges in Sanjiao that had been damaged by the flood and were being reinforced by soldiers.
"If the bridge was not reinforced in a timely manner and collapsed, it would be harder for villagers to return home," Wu said, adding that the local police officers were also able to rest a bit with the team's presence.
The police had worked for more than 30 hours evacuating 23,411 people living in Sanjiao.
Wu and his team worked in shifts round-the-clock preventing villagers from using the bridges and keeping the areas around the bridge repair work clear.
Some villagers came in cars to retrieve belongings from their inundated homes, and some came to have a look at their houses in the distance or to watch the flood.
Wu said he and other team members patiently communicated with villagers, but some who were stopped from crossing the bridge quarreled with the team.
"We bore it silently. We could understand how they felt," Wu said.
Some villagers who were thankful for the team's service brought them goods such as tissues, watermelons and drinks.
"We either refused to take the goods or offered to pay for them. They just left them for us and went away."
Some of the team members were sent by the local fire department to evacuate villagers who were trapped after trying to return home by boat.
When boats became available, they helped some villagers move their urgently needed belongings from their homes.
Before arriving on site, Wu had thought he would be working with teams on the front line, carrying sand bags, closing up the breached embankment and sleeping at the work site.
Wu said that though he was faced with the scorching sun, mosquitoes and bugs, he found the five-day job much less arduous than he had expected.
Before the team departed on July 18 after the bridge work was finished and the flood significantly receded, the members assembled for a short group run.
"We used to be soldiers and it felt great," Wu said.
Liu Xiaolin contributed to this story.