Help­ing hand for those in need

From earth­quakes to trapped cats, oneHubei res­cue team has tack­led ev­ery type of emer­gency sit­u­a­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By LIUKUNinWuhan and HOULIQIANG in Bei­jing

When out­door sports en­thu­si­ast Xiang Dong es­tab­lished a res­cue as­so­ci­a­tion in 2009, his­mainaim was to help oth­ers like him who might have be­come trapped or gone miss­ing in China’s wild places.

His civil res­cue team, how­ever, has now had its fair share of in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing in the April 2015 Nepal earth­quake that killed more than 8,000 peo­ple and in­jured more than 21,000.

Xiang, who also heads an in­tel­li­gent con­trol sys­tems com­pany, dis­cov­ered his en­thu­si­asm for out­door sports while study­ing in Canada in 1998. He kep­tuphis newin­ter­est after re­turn­ing to China and even­tu­ally set up a moun­tain res­cue as­so­ci­a­tion in 2009.

In 2011, the 49-year-old ex­panded the as­so­ci­a­tion to be­come a 30-mem­ber res­cue team, spe­cial­iz­ing in ge­o­log­i­cal dis­as­ters in ur­ban and aquatic ar­eas, as well as moun­tain­ous en­vi­ron­ments.

He named the team after the clouded leop­ard, which is known for its climb­ing abil­i­ties. Now, the num­ber of team mem­bers has jumped to more than 200.

“I never thought to make it so big, but there are so many like-minded peo­ple,” Xiang said.

The team con­sists of peo­ple from all walks of life in Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince, such as busi­ness­men, pro­fes­sors, doc­tors, and re­tirees. But they all have one thing in com­mon: the be­lief in sav­ing peo­ple, Xiang said.

Firm in this be­lief, the team has now helped out with var­i­ous emer­gen­cies, from the Ya'an earth­quake in Sichuan to the Lu­dian earth­quake in Yun­nan and a ship­wreck in Hubei, as well as nu­mer­ous smaller in­ci­dents such as re­mov­ing hor­nets’ nests and sav­ing trapped cats.

They were the first for­eign vol­un­teers to ar­rive in Nepal after the earth­quake on April 25, 2015, car­ry­ing with them a num­ber of high-end de­vices, in­clud­ing un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles and life de­tec­tion in­stru­ments. Wang said his team was the first one from China to use un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles in res­cue work.

Dur­ing their fruit­less search for sur­vivors in Nepal, Xiang’s team of vol­un­teers worked tire­lessly over three days in four dif­fer­ent ar­eas and their ef­forts were al­ways greatly ap­pre­ci­ated by the lo­cals, he re­called.

“Ev­ery time when we fin­ished with one task, the lo­cal peo­ple around us ap­plauded and some po­lice­men also saluted us,” he said.

“Though many of us have seen peo­ple be­ing res­cued on TV after a huge dis­as­ter, this sel­dom hap­pens. We are more often faced with death. But as long as there is hope, my team will not give up.”

Dan­ger is never far away in a dis­as­ter area, and Xiang’s team nearly came a crop­per in Ya’an in 2014 when a huge rock hit their com­mand ve­hi­cle while they were in­side con­trol­ling an un­manned aerial ve­hi­cle.

“I was fright­ened, but luck­ily the rock only dam­aged a car door,” he said.

Xiang en­cour­ages his team mem­bers to un­dergo ex­er­cises with po­lice­men and fire­fight­ers to im­prove their res­cue skills and help keep in­surance costs down.

De­spite this, the pur­chase of 16 un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles and a se­ries of other high-end de­vices that help with res­cues in heavy smoke, fog and dark­ness has not come cheap.

Xiang es­ti­mated that he has spent more than 6 mil­lion yuan ($900,000) kit­ting out his team, yet he re­fuses to ac­cept do­na­tions.

“Money could eas­ily trig­ger con­flicts among team mem­bers. Right now, all the money comes from me, so no­body can com­plain and all of us are con­cen­trated on our work,” he said.

“My big­gest take­away from run­ning the res­cue team is that it has made me re­al­ize that noth­ing is as im­por­tant as life.”

Con­tact the writers at houliqiang@chi­

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