Rescuer didn't save a life for fame

Updated: 2011-11-02 08:05

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

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Rescuer didn't save a life for fame
Uruguayan Maria Fernanda saves a drowning woman in the West Lake of Hangzhou on Oct 13. [Photo by Wang Ronggui/for China Daily] 

SHANGHAI - Jumping in the water to save a drowning woman in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, seemed the right thing to do for Maria Fernanda.

She was not prepared to become a heroine for her actions that day in West Lake on Oct 13.

"It was a rainy day and we were walking along the lake. Suddenly, I noticed people from outside were watching at some corner of the lake - we didn't think she was in trouble," said the 34-year-old from Uruguay.

"I thought 'OK, she was probably fishing', but when water reached her, I knew somebody had to do something. But I don't know Chinese and I couldn't scream Chinese," explained Fernanda.

"At that moment, the first thing that came to my mind was you had to do it," she said. "I undressed very quickly and jumped into the water to save her."

Wang Ronggui, a shutterbug who happened to be nearby when the incident occurred, said he saw a woman take off her jacket and dive into the water.

"At first I thought her own child fell into the lake, but when she came closer, I figured she was trying to save a Chinese," said Wang in a television interview.

Wang later posted the photos he took of Fernanda and the drowning 30-year-old woman on the Internet.

But that left the whole city of Hangzhou searching for the heroine, as Fernanda left without giving her name.

She and her husband were later tracked down in Shanghai through the Uruguayan embassy.

"As a foreigner who jumped into the water to save people, I understand the whole society has this question of why a foreigner has to do this rather than Chinese," she said. "But I don't think it's the key question."

"The thing is, when I was coming out of the water with the woman, I saw there were at least seven or eight cameras taking photos of us. I was a little angry and sad, I started to yell in English, 'what are you doing? She was dying and you were only thinking about taking pictures? Life is more important!'" said Fernanda.

"I was angry because the crowd was just curious and simply watching us - it's not a fashion show," she added.

Fernanda said she would rather believe the crowd was in shock than indifferent.

"I think it's not a Chinese problem, it's a global problem. Nowadays, we live in a hurry, everybody is always on the way to somewhere, nobody can take time to look at human value - I'm happy to see people start to think about it again, as for me it's very important."