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Firefighter recounts quake rescue work

A large number of rescue photos of firefighter Zhou Qingyang's time in earthquake-hit Wenchuan County in Sichuan Province have been stored in his squad's computers since they returned to Shanghai, but the 30-year-old firefighter never looks at them.

"I and all of us who were involved in the rescue effort don't want to recollect those days."

Zhou was promoted to deputy director of the Special Forces team in Zhabei District's Pengpu area even though he had reached the age when he could retire from fighting fires.

"The job is different when you are a manager and not on the front lines," Zhou said. "Since I have just started, I have lots of things to learn."

The strong-willed captain of the squad's rescue team told Shanghai Daily that he still feels terrible when thinking of the disaster even though he had witnessed deaths in his 11 years of work as a front-line firefighter.

On May 14 last year, Zhou arrived in Dujiangyan, a severely-damaged city about 100 kilometers from Wenchuan County, the epicenter of the May 12 earthquake, with another 19 firefighters from Shanghai. The advance team arrived in Yingxiu Town in Wenchuan by military helicopter while the other firefighters walked.

He then started eight unforgettable days without sleep in Yingxiu.

About 3,000 victims were buried in Yingxiu. Zhou's team started at Yingxiu Primary School, where it was believed many people were buried alive.

The team first rescued Li Qiuman, a third-grade girl found under a crushed staircase and crossbeams. Rescuers first dug a channel using various drills and saws to reach her. Zhou then dug and cleared rubble with his bare hands. Five hours later, Zhou lifted Li out of the darkness.

"None of us had experience in earthquake rescues. When we rescued the girl more than 100 parents were waiting," Zhou said. "I was totally moved by their gratitude when we brought her out. It gave us confidence."

In eight days, Zhou lifted 12 survivors out of the rubble, and worked with other team members to rescue another 11.


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