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Ex-soldier helping foil floods in Wuhan

By LIU KUN and ZHAO XINYING | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-07-15 09:16
Xia Deqin (front) and his teammates patrol the Wujin Dike of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Monday. ZHENG XIAOYONG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Twenty-two years after fighting a deluge stemming from the Yangtze River, Xia Deqin is dealing with flood again.

Since July 6, he has been working on the dike along the Yangtze River in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, to ensure that it will not burst and flood the city as the water level continues to rise.

As a temporary dike patrol worker, Xia takes shifts with his co-workers to walk back and forth day and night on a 500-meter section of the dike to detect any structural weaknesses.

The 44-year-old retired veteran has had experience participating in the control and management of disasters. In 1998, he joined the fight against the great floods that swept the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze just after he retired from the military.

This summer, due to continuous downpours and water from the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze, the water level at Wuhan's Hankou Hydrometric Station hit 28.77 meters at 11 pm on Sunday, the fourth-highest level recorded since the station was established in 1865.

Some residents with related experience volunteered to take part in flood control and management. Xia, a Wuhan resident, is one of them.

To make the detection effective, patrol workers need to take one or two round trips on the dike every hour, which means that Xia and his peers have to walk for 8 to 16 kilometers during each shift of eight hours.

"It's not just about walking," Xia told China Daily, adding that they had to observe carefully and use a bamboo pole to find out if there's anything wrong with the water and the dike.

July is one of the hottest months in China. Walking in the sun with a straw hat, a life jacket and a pair of rubber boots, Xia's clothes were soon wet with sweat.

But this is not the most difficult part of the job, he said. On rainy, humid days, they have to put on boots and raincoats, which means they are not only soaked by the rain but also from their sweat, and the humidity makes it difficult for them to breathe. Meanwhile, they have to watch out for slippery moss to avoid falling.

The work is tedious and dangerous, but Xia has never complained.

"Maybe because I used to be a soldier," he said. "Whenever a danger or crisis occurs, the instinctive reaction of a Chinese soldier is to rush toward the battlefield."

Besides working voluntarily to guard the dike, Xia is a safety supervision manager at a construction company in the city.

Nearly half a year ago when the COVID-19 epidemic struck Hubei, which was the hardest-hit province on the Chinese mainland, Xia was part of the construction team for Huoshenshan Hospital, one of the two makeshift hospitals built within two weeks to save lives in Wuhan.

He started work on the construction site on Jan 24, Chinese New Year's Eve. After construction was completed, he stayed on to do maintenance work at the hospital and remained until the hospital closed in mid-April.

"Each crisis experienced will help improve the city's ability to cope with disasters and emergencies," Xia said. "Wuhan has survived the floods of past years and the COVID-19 outbreak in the first half of the year, and I believe it will live through this."

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