Aerial photo taken on July 22, 2021 shows rescuers evacuating stranded people outside the Fuwai Central China Cardiovascular Hospital in flood-hit Zhongmu County of Zhengzhou, central China's Henan Province. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)
ZHENGZHOU, July 22 (Xinhua) — After a record rainstorm ravaged central China’s Henan Province, Zhou Jing, a resident in neighboring Anhui Province, lost contact with her longtime hairdresser.
Text messages and phone calls went unanswered, which never happened in the past, Zhou said. Only later did she know that the barber had rushed to Henan in his second identity: a professional rescuer.
The barber, Yu Tao, is a member of the Blue Sky Rescue Team in Hefei, capital of Anhui. He said his team, a non-governmental organization, assembled overnight and rushed to Henan in the wee hours of Wednesday after torrential rains unleashed deadly floods there.
On China’s popular microblogging site Sina Weibo, Zhou heartily praised her barber for “dropping his scissors to save lives,” one of the many messages showing solidarity with the flood-hit Henan.
“Every ordinary person around you may become a hero to save others on a special day,” Zhou said in a post forwarded 71,000 times.
A video interview by a local media outlet showed Yu standing in ankle-deep floodwater and wearing a blue helmet and a red life jacket, apparently stunned by his overnight fame on social media.
“I do not see myself as special or outstanding. All the team members put aside their daily work to come and help,” Yu later told Xinhua.
Thirty-three people have died, and eight remain missing after an unprecedented rainstorm walloped the populous province of Henan. In the provincial capital Zhengzhou, road traffic was paralyzed and many passengers were trapped in waterlogged subway trains after the city’s rainfall over three days neared the average annual amount.
The country has launched massive rescue and relief efforts. By Wednesday afternoon, the Central Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had sent over 5,700 soldiers, armed police troops, and militias to join the rescue in Henan, in addition to 148 vessels and vehicles.
China’s Ministry of Finance Wednesday earmarked 100 million yuan (about 15.42 million U.S. dollars) for disaster relief in Henan.
Social forces are also on the move to offer timely assistance.
On Tuesday evening, Zhengzhou’s library, its science and technology museum, and some schools volunteered free overnight shelter for people trapped on their journeys home by rising floodwater. Many private house owners and companies also joined the initiative.
Online travel service provider Fliggy said Thursday that 487 hotels in nearly 20 cities in Henan are offering free resting space for people in need. Fliggy said the hotels’ information could be found by searching “Hang on Henan” on its app.
A cinema in downtown Zhengzhou took in over 1,000 stranded residents, allowing them to sleep on seats in its screening halls on Tuesday evening.
Yang Zhen, a staffer with the Oriental Jiahe Cinema, said he encountered many stranded pedestrians on his way home and guided them to the cinema after the cinema management agreed to his proposal to open up the halls.
The cinema has decided to suspend business until Friday to continue to shelter the displaced and those whose homes had no electricity or water supply, Yang said.
“Operation costs are not our concern at this moment. As part of the city, we’re supposed to share weal and woe with Zhengzhou,” he said.
Aid also poured in from other parts of the country, as celebrities, companies, and ordinary netizens expressed solidarity with the province.
Alipay said its users had donated 100 million yuan through the online payment platform, 36 hours since it dedicated a donation section for Henan.
Wuhan, capital of neighboring Hubei Province, sent a team of engineers to help pump waterlogged streets and tunnels in Zhengzhou.
“Wuhan received generous support from people in Henan during the epidemic. Now we should repay their kindness as they are in difficulty,” said Yang Lei with the Wuhan Water Authority.
Yang Xidao, one of the 392 firefighters dispatched to Zhengzhou from the eastern province of Jiangxi, uttered a similar view.
“Last year, when the severe flood hit Poyang Lake, support poured in from across the country to help us overcome the difficulties. Now we feel obliged to help when Zhengzhou is in trouble,” Yang said.