Water rescue team sharpens its ice-diving skills

Little-heralded outfit braves aquatic depths in Beijing for intensive training

By XIN WEN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-03-28 07:14
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A firefighter undergoes ice-diving training in Miyun district, Beijing, in January. WANG ZICHENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

The temperature gauge registers an unseasonably warm 5 C, yet the frozen expanse of water in northeastern Beijing feels significantly colder.

In the distance, the sky is clear and blue and ice fishermen quietly tend to their lines. But the tranquillity is soon disrupted by the roar of a chain saw, which draws a small crowd of curious onlookers who circle a group of firefighters and their equipment.

One of the firefighters cuts a triangular hole in the 20-centimeter-thick sheet of ice and three others emerge from a tent dressed in attire more suitable for a colder environment. They make their way toward the newly opened hole, located no more than 6 meters from the shore.

The firefighters are undergoing their annual training in ice diving, which usually takes place during the coldest time of the year in Beijing. The training typically includes exercises such as ice-cave traversal and underwater searches.

The firefighters belong to the Miyun Firefighting Water Rescue Team, a professional rescue outfit established in 2012 to meet the growing demand for aquatic rescue operations.

In June 2019, the Ministry of Emergency Management's Fire and Rescue Administration also established the National Water Rescue Beijing Brigade, to build upon the foundations put down by the Miyun team.

In China, there are now eight water rescue brigades similar to the one in Miyun district, which are comprised of hundreds of firefighters with expertise in such rescues. In recent years, they have participated in various operations during natural disasters including the 2021 Henan floods and the 2023 Beijing deluge.

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