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Volunteer rescue teams shine in China’s flood response

Xiamen’s “morning light” (ML) rescue team is a non-profit emergency response force based in Xiamen city, south China’s Fujian province that has helped evacuate nearly 3,000 people trapped by floodwaters in the region this year.

Battered by torrential rains during the annual flood season, the provinces of Jiangxi and Anhui were severely threatened by floods and accompanying geological hazards such as landslide. 

On the night of July 8, the ML rescue team embarked on a disaster relief mission as Jiangxi declared a red flood alert and Anhui raised its emergency response from Level III to Level II, the second-highest in the national four-tier emergency response system.

Team leader Wang Gang and 12 other members gathered as the first echelon and hurried overnight to Poyang county in Jiangxi province to launch rescue operations. Two other rescue echelons arrived immediately after. To equip the three echelons, a total of 55 vehicles and 44 boats were dispatched by the team.

During a later resident relocation task in Guzhen village, Anhui province, the engine of a rubber boat driven by Wang suddenly broke down, leaving the craft carrying four children, six elderly people and two other rescuers whirling in the floodwater. 

The three rescuers went all out to paddle upstream to cling to a nearby tree. All onboard were then transferred to safe places with the help of other team members passing by. 

The ML rescue team was set up in June, 2014, by Wang — once a volunteer in the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake and more than 10 others who had been contributing to free professional rescue services. 

So far, the team, having grown into a first-class volunteer rescue team, has carried out more than 3,000 domestic rescue and relief tasks as well as engaging in multiple international rescue missions, including the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador in 2016.

To combat the floods this year, Wang and his team members, along with over 10 other volunteer rescue teams, battled hard for 30 consecutive days in the two provinces and evacuated over 3,000 people from heavy rains.

“The volunteer rescue teams are flexible and highly responsive,” Wang said, “Although a volunteer rescue team, we are equally strong in conducting a wide range of relief tasks.”

The ML rescue team has also formed specialized groups for various rescue tasks in mountains and waterways, being equipped with sonar, search and rescue dogs, satellite communication devices and high-altitude ropes, etc. A psychological group is also available to offer psychological counseling services for the rescued when needed.

The assistance provided by the ML rescue team is free and the team members work voluntarily with no reward. All the operating costs of the team have been covered by social donations and sometimes contributions from the team members themselves.

In June and July this year, continuous rainstorms pounded large parts of southern China, raising rivers above warning levels and causing ruinous floods. 

According to the Ministry of Emergency Management, more than 500 volunteer rescue teams have contributed to the flood relief efforts in southern China this year. They have dispatched over 14,000 rescue workers, mobilized around 640 vehicles and 400 boats, and helped evacuate more than 40,000 people. 

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