ZHENGZHOU, July 26 (Xinhua) — Just before the car trapping Vee Hou’s mother and two children could sink below the floodwaters, they were saved by a group of strangers who swam to the car, smashed open the window and pulled them out.
The rescuers then placed the children inside a large blue bucket and floated them to safety one by one, and lifted the senior to safety.
Record rainstorms have wreaked havoc in central China’s Henan Province, inflicting heavy losses. The death toll has risen to 69 as of noon on Monday, the information office of the Henan provincial government said during a press conference.
Henan has so far deployed more than 116,000 rescue workers to aid disaster relief, in addition to national-level rescue personnel and those from other provinces and state-owned enterprises, according to the provincial department of emergency management.
A recent viral video shows many residents in the provincial capital Zhengzhou working together to save the trio stuck in the car swamped by floodwaters on July 20.
“They are truly unsung heroes and I am so grateful to all of them,” Hou said.
RESIDENTS TO THE RESCUE
As the rain poured down and the flooding reached knee height, Vee Hou became increasingly anxious. Her mother had just picked her two children up from kindergarten in Zhengzhou. Their car stalled at a crossroads and they were unable to get out. The only things still moving were the windshield wipers. The flood was pushing in.
“I waved outside, but the closest shop was more than 20 meters away and no one could see me,” Hou’s mother said. She called her daughter to alert her to the danger they were in.
Hou tried to call the police, but all lines were busy. She then searched for information about the surrounding shops and called their owners. One of them responded and called hotel staff Li Kunpeng to help.
After receiving the call, Li grabbed a kitchen knife and rushed to the rescue, regardless of the fact that he didn’t know how to swim.
When Li reached the car, the water had risen to his neck, leaving only the top of the car visible.
“I managed to climb on top, and I saw this lady and the two kids inside,” Li recalled. “I tried to break the window with the knife but I wasn’t able to.”
As more people swam over, Li shouted, “Hammer!”
Another nearby stranger attempted to break in the window with Li’s knife, but they were again unsuccessful. Two security guards then swam to the car holding a hammer. Hotel owner Yin Longfei pulled over a large blue bucket, which he later said he uses to wash bedsheets. Noodle shop owner Li Xiang also arrived to aid the rescue, bringing with him a large hammer.
Li Kunpeng took a hammer and using all his strength, he was able to break the roof of the car. Meanwhile, Li Xiang had managed to make a small hole in a side window and broke it open with his bare hands.
Within minutes, the rescuers had pulled the children out. Security guard Lou Yanzhe attempted to warm them up with the coat from his own back. The children were stowed in the blue bucket separately and dragged to safety.
All three occupants of the car were eventually saved.
The footage of the rescue has led to an outpouring of sentiment online, with many saying they were deeply moved.
“If there were a Noah’s Ark in the world, I think this would be it,” said a netizen with the screen name Yangjunjiang.
ORDINARY PEOPLE — AND HEROES
Vee Hou said the rescue will forever be remembered in her heart.
“I remember when I called one of the rescuers, he simply told me not to worry, and that they would take care of it,” Hou said. “I didn’t know how much the words meant until I learned more about the rescue process.”
The rescuers included people from many walks of life, including hotel staff, soldiers, a noodle shop owner, security guards and a dancing teacher.
During the battle to save the grandmother and her grandchildren, one rescuer sustained cuts to his hands and a broken finger. Another lost his phone and wallet in the process. But not one of them uttered a word of complaint.
“Anyone would have done the same thing,” one rescuer said.
Vee Hou’s mother was able to keep her calm throughout the ordeal.
“She did not sound anxious on the phone,” Hou said. “She later told me that she did not want to make me or the kids worry.”
While waiting for help, Hou’s mother held the two children high in the car and told them they were playing a game called “Flood Adventure.”
“She was so brave,” Hou said.
Vee Hou later took her children to visit Li Xiang, the man who had broken his finger while aiding the rescue.
“He asked my sons if they were scared during the flood, and they said they were not,” Hou said. “He praised them for their courage, and told them to be brave people when they grow up.”
“These people are ordinary citizens, but they are also heroes,” she said. “This rescue will forever be in our hearts. It will be a lifelong treasure.”