A gift of life from angels in fatigues

By Li Xiang and Wang Guomin (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-09-26 07:16


The second survivor is carried off a PLA search helicopter.

The phone rings at 9 pm on September 6, bringing with it terrible news. Wang Zongming, director of emergency management office in Hotan - 1,000 km to the south of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region's capital of Urumqi - is told by the local tourism office that six Russian tourists have gone missing. The tourists had set off on August 21 on a canoe trip down the Yurungkax River but hadn't turned up for the meeting with their interpreter on September 2, as planned.

Wang immediately alerts the local authorities and rushes to his office. In just 10 minutes, Hotan Area Secretary Cheng Zhenshan organizes 10 other departmental heads of the local administration, the military and bureaus of public security, water management, weather and tourism. After quickly going over the case, they decide to set up a rescue headquarters and mobilize 1,000 residents along the river to search for the six Russians.

A massive search operation is launched at the crack of dawn the very next day along the Yurungkax River in a remote, snowy area of the Kunlun Mountains. Three days pass but nobody is found.

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