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May 30, 2012

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More soul-searching as foreigner helps out

AN Italian teacher working at the Tongji University volunteered to cordon off people from a burning bus yesterday morning before police reached the site.

No one was injured, and a firefighter wrote about the incident on the Internet to express his gratitude to the teacher. But the post triggered a heated debate online about why it's always foreigners who are the heroes, stepping in to help others.

Some blamed the dearth of Chinese good Samaritans on current society's prevailing philosophy of self-protection, while others attributed it to the lack of first aid training among citizens.

Marco Scaioni, 43, came to the city about six months ago to work at Tongji University's College of Surveying and Geo-Informatics.

The expat professor was riding a bike to the university about 10am when he approached the university gate.

"I suddenly heard a big bang, explosion, when I'm on my bike," he said.

Looking around, he found the engine of a No. 115 bus on Zhangwu Road had caught on fire. He put his bike aside and came to lend a helping hand.

"Before I got to the site, passengers had jumped off the bus," he said. He stayed to prevent passers-by from getting close to the bus. "Some people didn't realize there was an accident and some didn't seem to understand its danger," he said.

He couldn't speak Chinese but was using his body language to remind others of the potential danger of getting close.

He was the only volunteer on the site to keep the order before the police arrived, while others just watched aside or passed by quickly.

"How to cope with disasters is one of my majors," he said.

"When I was in Italy, I taught students in the master's of civil engineering for risk management at Politecnico di Milano," he said. "Here at Tongji, I'm involved in research on landslide prevention and monitoring."

He stayed in the site for about 20 minutes. His behavior drew applause from Tongji colleagues and students as well as Internet users.

Scaioni is not the first expat offering a helping hand while Chinese passers-by simply watched.

A French man gave emergency first aid to a man who fainted at a downtown Metro station on May 24, winning approval from the Metro authorities as well as passengers.

A South African helped a passenger who apparently having an epileptic seizure on Metro Line 2 last August.


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