A man stranded amid a flood in a northwestern China river drowned last Thursday after rescuers at the scene failed to save him.
The middle-aged man, surnamed Yang, was said to be catching fish in the riverbed when the floodwater was discharged from a major reservoir in the city of Baoji, Shaanxi Province.
The city had undergone heavy rainfall two days in a row before authorities ordered to discharge the accumulated water from the reservoir.
Seven others, who were said to be doing construction work, were also reported stranded in the river but on another islet, and they were closer to the bank. Rescuers at the scene decided to rescue them with ropes first, leaving Yang stranded on the islet for about half an hour, one witness said.
Rescuers tried several times to get into the water to reach Yang, but failed as the current was too strong. According to one rescuer, whoever got into the water was choked by the mud and sand. They then tried to throw ropes to Yang to pull him out, but also failed as he was too far away from them.
Yang was then swept away after another flood peak came unexpectedly.
Rescuers had placed a ladder across the river under a downstream bridge before Yang was washed away, but he failed to reach it, rescuers said.
“We placed a ladder across the river at a pier that lies 150 meters downstream. Meanwhile we tried again to get into the water, but the floodwater rose sharply and suddenly back then. Unfortunately, the man was then washed away,” said Wang Zhouding, one of the rescuers with the city’s fire department.
Wang added that the floods were too violent and they could not get to Yang by speedboat or kayak, which would have been capsized.
The man was later found two kilometers downstream. He was hospitalized but did not survive the accident, rescuers said.
Faced with criticism of the failed rescue effort, the local fire department explained that the strong flood current had left them incapable and the local flood control authorities said they had informed residents to leave before the floodwater was discharged.
The authorities, however, promised to do more to prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy, and meanwhile, advised the locals to enhance their awareness of safety and not to go to the riverbed for fishing or cooling off in the flood season.
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