Flood takes village hero

By Qiu Bo and Yang Jun (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-06-13 09:36
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WANGMO, Guizhou - As usual, the 16-year-old middle school student Wang Fengqin called her father, who lives in a remote village, a week before she was due to return home on Friday.

"On the phone, I told him my dress was torn by mistake and he immediately promised to buy me a new one," the girl said.

But she never expected that the conversation would be her last with her father.

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The girl's father, 44-year-old Wang Jianzhong, lived in Dajian, a remote village in Southwest China's Guizhou province. He was engulfed by a great wave in a sudden flood triggered by torrential rain in the early hours of June 6, while he was trying to protect the village's public assets.

His body was found the next day and was buried by his family a few hours later.

Wang Fengqin had no idea about the tragedy as she was studying in the county's downtown area.

As the only route to her hometown was blocked by the mudflow, it took two days for the girl and her mother, 38-year-old Wang Xiaoran, who worked in Zhejiang province, to return home.

"My uncle called me to tell me that my father had been killed in the flood and had been buried," the girl said. "I can't believe it. I missed my last chance to see his face."

The assets protected by Wang Jianzhong were 30 tons of concrete worth 10,000 yuan ($1,500) and distributed by the local government to help Wang's neighborhood to build a path, said Cen Yingxiang, Wang's neighbor.

The new path will benefit thousands of people living nearby, including 342 people from 78 families in Wang's neighborhood who have been walking on the original sloping, muddy pathway for generations.

Cen said Wang was chosen to be the leader among the neighbors through an open election last November and appointed to be in charge of supervising and working on construction.

The project began in May and dozens of local residents, with Wang's encouragement, contributed their labor for nothing.

Wang worked voluntarily and did not receive even a penny from the project. At the time of his death, more than half of the several-kilometer-long path had been finished, said Cen.

Huang Fujiang, Party secretary of the village, said Wang Jianzhong had his chance to run away from the flood but he totally focused on saving the concrete, which was stored on the ground floor of the village committee's office, a two-story house beside the river.

"He could have saved himself if he'd gone upstairs in time," said Huang. "I yelled and urged him to get out quickly, but he was busy transferring the concrete and didn't listen to me, until he vanished in the flood in front of me."

Besides Wang Fengqin and her mother, there are also her two little brothers and their 68-year-old grandmother in the family, whose farmland has been ruined by the rampant flood.

Wang's death has forced his wife to stay home to take care of the elderly woman and the young children, which means the family has no income.

"We'd been married for 18 years and it's a total disaster to this family," said the mother. "How can he leave us like this?"

The tearful daughter Wang Fengqin said: "I would exchange everything for his coming back, back to our life,".