Officer who saved 51 from floods tells survival tale

A 32-year-old police officer who saved 51 people from the floods in Henan province and was swept away by a surge of water has recounted his extraordinary survival tale.

Yang Xuheng’s heroics in Xinmi, Henan, one of many inspiring rescue stories to emerge from last week’s floods, have received widespread praise from netizens.

“That’s our superhero,” one said on the social media platform Sina Weibo of Yang, who is deputy director of a police station in Chengguan township.

There were desperate moments. But the moment I thought ‘I am a police officer and a villager beside me is relying on me’, I pulled myself together

Yang Xuheng, a police officer in Xinmi, Henan province

On Sunday morning, a woman surnamed Li visited Yang in a hospital where he was being treated for wounds he received during the rescue. She handed him a bouquet of flowers and bowed to express gratitude to him for saving herself and her child, China Youth Daily reported.

On July 20, when the impact of the deluge was at its most severe in Xinmi, Yang volunteered to check out a neighborhood where residents had called police for help.

While driving there, Yang came across two vehicles that had crashed due to the floodwaters. A woman and her 7-year-old daughter were in one of the vehicles.

Yang rushed to get them out of the vehicle and escorted them to a cement platform above the floodwaters. Shortly afterward, the crashed vehicles and Yang’s police car were washed away by the surging water.

As night fell and the heavy rain continued, Yang blew his whistle in the gloom to guide dozens of people being evacuated from the floodwaters to safe areas.

Later in the evening, Yang and a village official, Yang Quan, volunteered to drive an amphibious vehicle to save villagers stranded in their houses and sheltering in trees. When they neared the village of Wanzihe, a torrent of water pushed the vehicle into a raging river. The pair lost contact with other rescue teams.

Yang Xuheng said he and the official crawled out of the vehicle before it was submerged in the floodwaters.

As they drifted in the water, Yang Xuheng touched a submerged wall and lifted 63-year-old Yang Quan to the top. “It was just high enough for us to sit on,” he said, adding that they were relieved they had escaped the immediate threat of the surging waters.

With his feet still in the water and wind blowing all night, Yang Quan began to tremble. Yang Xuheng rubbed the village official’s hands to keep him warm.

“We had to find a way out rather than getting soaked in the water,” Yang Xuheng said. After a brief rest, they fumbled their way through the floodwaters and darkness and found a rock above the waterline that they were able to stand on.

When the sun rose, Yang Xuheng was able to get a better lay of the land. The two swam to a nearby aluminum factory and entered the office building, where five people were trapped. Yang Xuheng borrowed a villager’s cellphone and reported his position to the city’s public security bureau.

Police officer Wang Xiaoyu and her colleagues had been up all night waiting for news about Yang Xuheng. When she received the phone call she burst into tears.

Rescuers rushed to the factory and saved everyone stranded there.

Recalling the tense 10 hours, Yang Xuheng said: “There were desperate moments. But the moment I thought’I am a police officer and a villager beside me is relying on me’, I pulled myself together.

“I barely had time to feel afraid. At first, all I thought about was saving others, and later, saving ourselves,” he added.

Chen Yujie, deputy Party secretary of the Xinmi Public Security Bureau, said it was Yang Xuheng’s familiarity with the terrain and mental strength and police training that lead to the “miracle”.