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Mountain rescue team reaches for peak efficiency

Firefighters strive to keep outdoor enthusiasts out of harm's way

By XIN WEN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-31 07:40
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Firefighters from the Beijing Mountain Rescue Team in Huairou carry an injured tourist on a stretcher in September. The tourist had injured his waist and legs when picking chestnuts on the mountain. China Daily

At 9:01 am on May 19, Wang Qiong received a phone call asking for help from a watchtower at a remote section of the Great Wall. The caller said that five people had been struck by lightning and one of them was unconscious.

Wang reacted quickly, asking: "Where are you exactly? Were you climbing the mountain from the east side of a village, where a parking lot is located? Did you turn left after reaching the peak?"

After multiple questions, Wang was sure of where the incident had happened and took seven team members with him to rescue the hikers who were trapped in a dangerously steep section of the Great Wall.

After an hour of hiking and climbing, the team arrived on the scene with rescue equipment. The injured man was weak but conscious, with a slow heartbeat. The other four people were in reasonable condition, a video posted by the Beijing Fire Rescue Corps showed.

The firefighters used a torso-protecting air bag to immobilize the injured man and spent two more hours transferring him to the foot of the mountain. He was placed in an ambulance at 12:34 pm.

"It was my mission to rescue them," said Wang, deputy director of a squad of Beijing Mountain Rescue Team. "I felt very relieved that the task could be completed because of me."

It is the 11th year that 29-year-old Wang has participated in professional mountain rescue operations in Huairou district on Beijing's northern outskirts. The district is home to 24 mountains with elevation above 2,000 meters, and 90 percent of its terrain is mountainous.

The hilly landscape, along with steep hiking routes, attracts a large number of visitors throughout the year. In 2018, the local firefighting department set up the Beijing Mountain Rescue Team, consisting of six squads, to deal with accidents and searches.

"Huairou has about 60 to 70 outdoor accidents every year," said Wang. "The incidents are not limited to the summer or winter months, but occur across all four seasons."

Spring has a high number of outdoor incidents. The day before Wang received the call for help, his colleague, Li Yong, director of another of the Huairou squads, and his team spent more than three hours rescuing an injured hiker near Xiangshui Lake scenic spot.

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