Staying afloat despite the strong currents

Updated: 2011-09-06 07:58

(China Daily)

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It was a drowning accident that gave birth to Lai Zhongliu's underwater rescue team, five years ago.

Lai is a traffic police assistant in Furong village of Leqing, a county in southeastern Zhejiang province.

In 2004, a villager was killed in the floods unleashed by a typhoon.

"I was at the accident site with other rescuers, but our two-hour effort seemed pointless as none of us had a diving outfit," Lai recalls, regret written all over his face. That's when he decided to form his own rescue team.

"State-owned rescue organizations, although professional, are mostly centered in urban areas, so villages like Furong often receive little help," he says.

Over the next few years, Lai spent nearly 200,000 yuan ($31,350) of his money on professional rescue equipment, including diving suits and radios. At its peak, the province's first underwater rescue team had more than 100 members from all walks of life.

Divided into five groups, they covered various villages in Leqing county.

Zheng Bohong, one of the volunteers, is general manager of a home appliances company. His specialty is underwater rescue and motorboating.

Chen Jiandong, a network engineer who has been with the team for more than two years, can quickly pinpoint the exact location of a trapped survivor.

Liu Hexin, who has served in the army for years, is experienced at combat rescue and also adept at training newcomers.

But in 2008, the team saw a sudden fall in numbers.

"The lack of finances meant we could not guarantee a volunteer's safety," Lai says. "If you got injured, you were on your own."

To continue operations, Lai turned to his businessmen relatives for funding.

In 2010, Lai found hope through the Beijing-based One Foundation Rescue Association, which offers them financial help and rescue training for the members.


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