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March 5, 2010

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She saved a burning man, at a price

WASHING fish and preparing dinner, everything seemed normal to the 54-year-old cook.

Suddenly she heard a bang. A moment later a colleague shocked her by rushing into the kitchen with flames all over his body - looking like a fire dragon, she thought.

Pulling the back door open, Liu Zhudi shouted, "Go jump into the river!"

Her action saved Yang Jianzhong, but she was burned in the process.

Lying at the armed police hospital yesterday with bandages around her arms and face where she was recovering from burns over 7 percent of her body, Liu told Shanghai Daily what she went through in the fire, which ripped through a recycling center in Qingpu District on February 21, killing six workers and injuring eight.

Liu, from Jiangsu Province, worked at the recycling center owned by her brother-in-law, cooking for the center's employees.

About 4pm, Liu heard an explosion but thought it was firecrackers. Then she realized the rooftop was crackling.

She turned around and saw Yang rush toward her through the front door between the workshop, which was ablaze, and the kitchen, yelling, "The electrical wires were on fire!"

"He looked like a fire dragon," Liu said. "I could hardly recognize him by his face."

She then remembered the river behind the kitchen and pulled the back door open, ordering Yang to jump in.

Liu said she did all this subconsciously. She had no idea she would catch on fire by drawing so close to Yang.

"All I could think about was saving a life, and I would still open the door for him if all this happened again." She spoke firmly, but with a bit of difficulty because of the bandages around her face.

Now that she is recovering from the burns, Liu said she is worried about her son, who worked at the same place and was also injured in the fire. He was receiving treatment at another ward of the hospital.

The fire was triggered by an explosion of chemical containers made of plastics and metal during the waste-treatment process, according to the police investigation. The center was not licensed to store or deal with flammable chemical substances. Six of the eight injured have received treatment at the hospital's burn unit. Besides Liu and an employee released from the hospital, the other four are still in serious condition, according to doctors.

"It's such a pity that no more people could make it through the back door of the kitchen," said Liu, who had no company at the hospital because patients suffering from burns are susceptible to infection and their families are kept away.

"They must have been very panicky," she said.


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